Earlier this year, headlines were made when the McDonald’s CEO led the fight against raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour in the USA. Ed Rensi went on FOX News and said that protests for an increase to wages were only encouraging automation in the fast food sector. The minimum wage was raised. Fast forward and we have a McDonald’s in Phoenix Arizona run entirely by robots. From an Examiner article, “Local Phoenix resident, 52-year-old Tom Downey, who has been unemployed for the last 3 years, was excited about the opening of a nearby McDonald’s until he heard about the robots. I am not even going to be able to get a burger job, said Tom”.
Today we have two stories about automation in fast food. The Australian writes about restaurant robots in China and the Indian Express writes about chef robots. The Australian’s story covers the ‘waitressing’ or front of house side of the business.
The Chinese business owners they interviewed, said that (1) cost pressure and (2) marketing were the main drivers behind automation. “Ms Jiao says, is struggling with the rising cost of ingredients and labour. Between 2014 and 2015, urban workers’ salaries rose 10 per cent. At around 8,000 yuan, or $US1,200 a pop, the price tag for the robot is just a few months’ pay for a regular worker”. Be on the lookout for the term ‘jiqiren’ or ‘machine people’ in Chinese.
The Indian Express piece covers the cooking or back of house. There will be little room left for humans in this business.
This little feller (a robotic arm with a face glued on) is going to put already struggling roadside vendors out of business. Hey – why not crush those struggling people. I am sure the roadside vendor has saved up enough money to re-skill as a computer scientist once he is technologically redundant. The Bratwurst Bot takes the orders from customers, cooks the sausages as specified and dishes them out to hungry humans – all without human help. The bot is a gimmick – made by a German firm. It uses cameras to detect color changes in the bratwurst, therefore knowing when to turn them over. A gimmick, a gag, a joke… Automation will drive technological unemployment. Unemployment drives distress and government deficits. Distress, hunger, a failure to deliver on political promises – those things drive revolutions.