Surprise: $15 Minimum Wage Could Speed Arrival Of Robot Powered Fast Food Joints

The vastly Right Wing, worker hating Washington Post provides a glimpse of the future

Minimum-wage offensive could speed arrival of robot-powered restaurants

Crowded. That’s how Ed Rensi remembers what life was like working at McDonald’s back in 1966. There were about double the number of people working in the store — 70 or 80, as opposed to the 30 or 40 there today — because preparing the food just took a lot more doing.

“When I first started at McDonald’s making 85 cents an hour, everything we made was by hand,” Rensi said — from cutting the shortcakes to stirring syrups into the milk for shakes. Over the years, though, ingredients started to arrive packaged and pre-mixed, ready to be heated up, bagged and handed out the window.

“More and more of the labor was pushed back up the chain,” said Rensi, who went on to become chief executive of the company in the 1990s. The company kept employing more grill cooks and cashiers as it expanded, but each one of them accounted for more of each store’s revenue as more sophisticated cooking techniques allowed each to become more productive.

The industry could be ready for another jolt as a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour nears in the District and as other campaigns to boost wages gain traction around the country. About 30 percent of the restaurant industry’s costs come from salaries, so burger-flipping robots — or at least super-fast ovens that expedite the process — become that much more cost-competitive if the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is doubled.

As the article points out, there are several factors which have been driving “robot restaurant” already. Too go with the ones mentioned in the excerpt, you have increasing costs of land, food costs, and plain old innovation. Much of that goes right into increased costs paid by the consumers. However, when you add a doubling of the wage required to be paid for low skill jobs, labor costs explode, meaning a cut-back in hours and personnel, and replacing them with machines.

As the old saying goes “be careful what you wish for. You might get it.”

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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