As minimum wage increases drive up personnel costs, some fast-food companies try to get creative.
For Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, that means a more automated restaurant, with kiosks to replace human labor.
CEO Andy Puzder visited Eatsa, a fully automated restaurant, and it inspired him, according to Business Insider.
“I want to try it,” Puzder said. “We could have a restaurant that’s focused on all-natural products and is much like an Eatsa, where you order on a kiosk, you pay with a credit or debit card, your order pops up, and you never see a person.”
Puzder has blamed minimum wage increases for rising costs and limiting employment opportunities for young and low-skilled workers.
“With government driving up the cost of labor, it’s driving down the number of jobs,” he said. “You’re going to see automation not just in airports and grocery stores, but in restaurants.”
That’s good news for customers who get cheaper products, but bad for workers who might have a difficult time finding another job. Automation and lower costs allow business to expand, which can give human employees other work options. Those effects, however, aren’t so strong for the young.
A recent study found that recent minimum wage increases reduced the employment rate for workers under 30 by 5.6 percent. Data for employment trends in Seattle was also unflattering to the recent minimum wage hike there, as teen employment has plummeted.
Automation technology, however, isn’t developed enough to reduce human labor in fast-food restaurants. An ordering kiosk can still fail, and burger-flipping remains precise and difficult for robots to copy.
McDonald’s has explored robots in its workplace as well, as has Panera Bread.