Will robots replace fast food workers?

By Melissa Platero, CCNN Writer

Panera kiosks
Panera is already speeding up its services with self-serving kiosks.

As minimum wage workers demand increased pay across the nation, companies are starting to seriously consider replacing them with robots. Major cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco have already given in to the pressure for a $15 minimum wage, which is more than double the current federal minimum $7.25.

Business owners say such a dramatic increase in costs would force them to raise prices on food items, and now some restaurant industry experts are turning to robots as a solution. Since automated technology is already on the rise, with self-controlled machines intelligently taking over tasks once performed by humans, such a move seems inevitable.

Not only are robotics performing everything from surgery to cow herding, but even do-it-yourself software programs like Turbo Tax are replacing professional accountants. After all, ever since factory machines began piecing together gadgets, clothing, and cars in ways that are quicker, cheaper, and more efficient than humans, the job market has shifted dramatically.

However, critics in the restaurant and hospitality industry believe machines will never truly replace the experience of a live human being offering service with a smile. That being said, customers don’t usually go to a fast food chain for the service, so a minimum wage increase just might end up being costly enough for business owners to fast-track robo replacements. Panera Bread is already spending $42 million to develop self-service ordering stations, while Chili’s and Applebee’s are putting tablets on their tables to that diners can order without waiting on a waiter!

Featured image courtesy of Yaskawa. Image of Panera diagram courtesy of Panera.