Restaurants skip higher wages for workers in favor of no workers

Restaurants experiencing labor shortages are turning to automation to keep costs down.

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Restaurants skip higher wages for workers in favor of no workers


Future. Restaurants experiencing labor shortages (mostly fast-food establishments and affordable chains) are turning to automation to keep costs down. Their adoption may just shift workers toward other open positions or even create a new class of entry-level jobs… but many of those jobs may require new skill sets, which could lead to a depressed labor market for years as workers look to go back to school or leave the workforce to pursue certification programs.

Tech of the Month
Robot servers are still a long way off, but here are some of the gadgets replacing people:

  • QR codes at the table instead of a server handing you a menu.
  • Mobile apps, like the one Cracker Barrel created, which let customers pay their checks in the restaurant.
  • Automated drive-thrus, like the ones McDonald’s is piloting in 10 of its locations in Chicago.
  • Contactless ordering, which Dave & Buster’s has been expanding at its locations… and says has increased efficiency.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity was up 5.4% in the first quarter of 2021, which analysts are attributing to tech adopted during the pandemic.

Labor lift
Unsurprisingly, proponents of automation report that the tech is both cost-effective and efficiency-boosting.

Indeed recently found that only 10% of job seekers are rushing to get a gig, so it’s no wonder that huge companies like McDonald’s and Dave & Buster’s are choosing to foot the bill for tech innovations (a one-time cost) instead of raising wages (continuous and far-reaching costs).

But maybe it’s not all bad news for workers. Like the Industrial Revolution and Dot-Com Boom before, automation could lead to the creation of new jobs to support the automation… as opposed to eliminating the overall number of jobs. Could a QR-code administrator be the next entry-level job?

David Vendrell

Born and raised a stone’s-throw away from the Everglades, David left the Florida swamp for the California desert. Over-caffeinated, he stares at his computer too long either writing the TFP newsletter or screenplays. He is repped by Anonymous Content.


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