We were told that raising the minimum wage wouldn’t lead to job losses . . .

. . . but it seems as though those job losses are happening anyway.

The Robots Have Won: Panera Replaces Cashiers with Kiosks

This isn’t the first time kiosks were used in place of real people. Airlines have been doing it for years, and now Panera has joined the club!

The soup and sandwich giant will be cutting down the number of cashiers in its new store design in attempt to fix its speed problems. The chain has faced criticism in the past over its slightly slower service in comparison to other fast food companies, so it was proposed to put the power of the order in the customer’s hands. Panera Chief Executive Ron Shaich said in an interview:

The dirty little secret in the food industry is one in seven orders is wrong. We’re one in ten, a little better than average. Half of those inaccuracies happen during order input.

More at the link. The First Street Journal has already reported on the effects of President Obama’s executive order requiring federal contractors to pay an increased minimum wage, and the results are exactly what we’ve told you they would be: employers cutting positions.

Congress has not yet passed President Obama’s minimum wage increase, so it cannot be said that Panera Bread’s actions here are in response to such. Realistically, it looks more like Panera is trying to save money, and increase efficiency, even at the current minimum wage. Your Editor and his darling bride (of 34 years, 11 months and 19 days) ate at a Red Robin in Allentown about a year ago, and that particular restaurant already had a similar ordering system, installed on the individual tables rather than at a kiosk; customers using credit or debit cards could also pay at those stations on the tables.

And why wouldn’t such restaurants? We’ve been seeing the tend to consumer automation for decades now, with computers answering telephones; actual receptionists have gone the way of keypunch operators. Why? Because computers don’t call off sick, computers don’t get to work late, computers don’t get distracted, computers don’t complain about working conditions or ask for raises or take vacation days or require health insurance. The Red Robin at which my wife and I ate, fewer employees were needed to perform the same function — get food cooked and delivered to the customers at their tables — and that is a direct contribution to the bottom line.

So, what will the minimum wage increase for which the President has asked do, if he gets it: it will raise the cost of labor for businesses which employ people who earn less than $10.10 per hour now, and that increases the pressures on those companies to find ways to cut labor costs. We may not be able to stop the trend of places like Panera Bead and Red Robin toward ordering automation, but the President’s proposal would actually speed it up.

3 Comments

  1. A few points Mr. Editor as a person not unfamiliar with the food service industry.

    it will raise the cost of labor for businesses which employ people who earn less than $10.10 per hour now,

    Actually, that will raise the cost of all labor since a business cannot give employees a raise up to or beyond the level of those above them without raising the next tier, etc. That goes right up to management.

    The chain has faced criticism in the past over its slightly slower service in comparison to other fast food companies,

    In industry parlance Panera Bread is not actually fast food, it’s casual food. Fast food is fast because of limited menu selection and assembly line style cooking and assembly of product. Panera is both a bakery and a sandwich shop but unlike the other major bakery/sandwich shop, Subway, they make every order by hand individually. Only the bread itself is mass produced for obvious reasons.

    The dirty little secret in the food industry is one in seven orders is wrong. We’re one in ten, a little better than average. Half of those inaccuracies happen during order input.

    There’s another dirty little secret: over half of incorrect orders are due to the customer not knowing what he wants, changes his mind, or just screws up the order. But since the customer is always right we handle it. The inaccuracies “during input” will still occur just as they do at Red Robin and WaWa , but then you can hand it back to the customer with HIS printed instructions and smile. If a customer orders it wrong in black & white it’s on them…no do-overs. That my friends, will cut food loss (shrinkage).

    that particular restaurant already had a similar ordering system, installed on the individual tables

    When automated ordering and paying is installed at a table the owner now faces a choice: call out your number and have you pick up your own food or convert waitresses to “runners” and pay them the $10.10 per hour and cut out tipping. Waiters/waitresses will then “run” the tables and after you’re done buss the tables therefore also eliminating the need for bussers.

    It seems to me that all this is just the natural evolution of technology as applied to the food service industry. Not that it won’t be accelerated by our Idiot-in-chief’s policies but evolution nonetheless. Jobs will be lost but for the left it’s “mission accomplished” as most of the job loss will be among lower earning and inner city poor/minorities thus further retarding their ability to throw off the plantation shackles and rise in the job market thereby adding more and more to the voting ranks of state supported Democrats. But, for those white, middle class “dudes” the computer field and the expansion of said technology will be a boon.

    The real people it hurts are those kids around 14 or 15 who, like I did, went to work to earn money and accidentally became a valued, reliable employee and finally an owner. I went to make money and discovered I had to show up, all the time, and work hard, all the time. Some would say valuable lessons. Leftists would say I was doing a job Americans didn’t want to do and pay me to stay home, stay ignorant, stay idle and stay voting for them.

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