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Low pay or no pay: Restaurants to replace unskilled workers with robots to avoid paying higher wages

Minimum wage

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(NaturalNews) The more Americans working in the fast-food and sit-down restaurant industry allow themselves to be duped into protesting their employers for unreasonably higher wages by politically motivated unions and elected officials, the faster they will eventually be replaced by technology, according to a number of experts and industry analysts.

Led by calls for "income equality" from union leaders and left-wing politicians (who have better-paying jobs that aren't in danger of ending soon, by the way), fast-food workers across the country protested anew on May 15, the latest in an 18-month effort to pressure chains like McDonald's, Hardee's and Burger King, among others, to raise wages for their low-skilled, basic-level positions.

Forcing companies to pay more always equals job losses

"They come at a time when U.S. Democrats have been pushing to raise the federal minimum wage ahead of this year's mid-term congressional elections, seeing income inequality as a powerful campaign issue," Reuters reported.

Protestors want wages for these low-skilled jobs raised to at least $15 an hour, though fast-food chains have repeatedly said that paying those kinds of wages -- which is about double the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour -- would result in widespread net job losses.

As noted by economist after economist, and study after study, forcing companies to pay more for a position than it is worth always results in job losses, but that doesn't seem to matter to those who would be affected the most by such losses -- because they keep pushing the issue.

Well, as expected, technology is racing to the restaurant industry's assistance. Robots that can make and/or prepare food are already in the testing phase. And, soon, additional technology that will further minimize the need for needy, complaining employees will come to market.

Some of it already has: Think about the self-checkouts at your local grocery or retail store. You do the scanning, pay with your debit card (or cash), bag and walk out; only one human is needed (to monitor customer flow) for the six-to-eight-lane self-checkout, not eight (one for each checkout lane).

The same fate has already begun to befall waiters and waitresses, as noted by syndicated columnist Jonah Goldberg, who wrote Dec. 9, 2013:

After you heard President Barack Obama's call for a hike in the minimum wage, you probably wondered the same thing I did: Was Obama sent from the future by Skynet to prepare humanity for its ultimate dominion by robots?

But just in case the question didn't occur to you, let me explain. On Tuesday, the day before Obama called for an increase in the minimum wage, the restaurant chain Applebee's announced that it will install iPad-like tablets at every table. Chili's already made this move earlier this year.

You'll be able to place your order and pay your check at the same time.

'Labor is a cost'

Now, these companies have said they have no plans to reduce staff at their restaurants, but think about that for a moment: Why wouldn't they? Otherwise, what is the point of installing the technology? Because it's cool? Hardly. This a necessary and logical business response to the political pressures of the "push for higher wages" extremists. Machines don't complain about wages, they don't call in sick, they don't need days off and they don't bring drama to work.

As noted by Goldberg, Annie Lowrey wrote in 2011 about the growing tablet-as-waiter business. She focused specifically on a startup firm called E la Carte, which makes a table tablet called Presto.

"Each console goes for $100 per month. If a restaurant serves meals eight hours a day, seven days a week, it works out to 42 cents per hour per table -- making the Presto cheaper than even the very cheapest waiter. Moreover, no manager needs to train it, replace it if it quits or offer it sick days. And it doesn't forget to take off the cheese, walk off for 20 minutes or accidentally offend with small talk, either," she wrote.

Applebee's is already using the Presto in some locations.

"People don't go into business to create jobs," Jonah wrote, "they go into business to make money. Labor is a cost. The more expensive labor is, the more attractive nonhuman replacements for labor become."






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