Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Rise of Robots May Doom Retail Restaurant Jobs Amid Furor Over Minimum Wage Increases

By Ira Stoll

Retail restaurant robots are coming soon to a checkout counter near you. For anyone who dismissed as a bunch of right-wing propaganda the claim that a higher minimum wage and mandatory health benefits would mean more workers replaced by computer screens, here is a reality check.

McDonald’s announced this month that it will deploy computer kiosks at 7,000 restaurants in Europe, allowing customers to place their own orders and pay by swiping their own credit card. Another restaurant chain, Panera, is deploying the computer kiosks for customers in the U.S., a development that Bloomberg News reported under the headline, “More Kiosks, Fewer Cashiers Coming Soon To Panera.”

The fast-food trade publication QSR reports that a McDonald’s in Laguna Niguel, Calif. is experimenting with iPads that let customers customize their hamburgers. A White Castle in Columbus, Ohio, has deployed computer kiosks that let customers place their own orders, unassisted by a paid human being. “Both Chili’s and Applebee’s recently announced that they are adding tablets throughout their restaurants, allowing customers to order and pay at their tables,” the QSR story says.

Nextep Systems, a Troy, Michigan-based firm that specializes in touch-screen self-order systems, says its sales for 2013 were up 50% from the prior year. At some point, you won’t even need the kiosk — you’ll be able to order from an app on your smartphone, maybe even before you arrive at the restaurant.

And it’s not only restaurants. Even Costco, a firm that President Obama has praised for its labor practices, features self-checkout lanes where customers scan the bar codes on their own purchases, then pay by swiping a credit card and signing on a computer scanner. No cash-register employee needed, whether at minimum wage or “living wage.”

Read the rest here.


  1. "For people who worry about jobs and joblessness in America, though, there’s a concern that yet another occupation may have its ranked severely thinned by technological progress."

    Wouldn't you have guessed, it's Mankind's oldest nemesis: productivity! Throwing people out of work since the invention of the wheel!

    What we really need to do is destroy all tools so that everyone will have Socially Valuable Employment regardless of skill. Bring back Mao's backyard blast furnaces and per-capita pig iron quotas. It's past time for a great leap forward into total equality for all humans in the ultimate sense of the term.

  2. Left-statists sure love putting people out of work with their "good intentions". There is no doubt that when this is implemented on a bigger scale (IE restaurant chains and such), left-statists will roll out their propaganda machines to brand these companies at anti-worker or some other bs.

  3. This is just another reminder that there is no need for us to carry water for the Cheap Labor/Chamber of Commerce sorts with the hysterics about the consequences of raising the min wage.