In the face of robots threatening to take away many menial jobs, fast food workers think they should be paid twice as much. The majority of our readers hail from the U.S. so they will already be aware of the recent debate around increasing the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour. One side of the argument says that you can’t support a family on the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour so we should simply double it. The other side of the argument says that you shouldn’t be procreating if you have a job that pays $7.25 an hour. Jobs which pay minimum wage aren’t meant to support families but rather to help students pay for their college or give people an option to make money in a pinch.
There are are 3.5 million fast food jobs in the U.S., many of which stand to benefit should the minimum wage be raised to $15 an hour. The fact is though, they may not benefit at all. As the CEO of Carl’s Junior aptly stated, “try a $15 minimum wage and see those jobs get automated out of existence”. He’s absolutely right. We’ve talked before about 3 autonomous robots that may steal your job. If 80% of all jobs are said to be threatened by the coming industrial revolution of artificial intelligence and robots, then fast food jobs have to be at the top of the list. One company that is targeting the “fast food robot” space is Momentum Machines.
Founded in 2010, San Francisco based Momentum Machines is developing a robot that can make 360 gourmet hamburgers per hour starting from raw ingredients. The contraption doesn’t quite look like what you might visualize when you think of a fast food robot as seen below:
Notice how the machine doesn’t even start producing until you’ve placed your order, then it starts grinding meat and slicing vegetables giving you the freshest possible burger. The concept is so innovative that Momentum Machines could probably open a successful burger joint on the concept alone, never mind the significant cost savings you could expect to realize by replacing workers with machines. If they try and engage with established fast food operators they face the risk of strong public backlash and would have to downplay their technology in the public eye. Why not open their own burger joint and use that technology as a selling point? Nobody is losing their job and only new jobs are created. If the product is really that good and fresh and the cost savings so meaningful, people should flock to the store because they get better food faster and cheaper. Once you start capturing market share then you’ll also be capturing the attention of all the other fast food operators who can no longer compete.
For consumers, the benefits are meaningful. Robots are not going to spit in your food. Robots will make absolutely sure you don’t get a burger with onions on it. Robots will get your order right every time. Robots won’t take an extra two minutes to make your hamburger because they’re chatting with their mates on Facebook. For the fast food operator, the benefits are tremendous. Robots won’t call in sick for work. Robots will do everything perfectly 99.9% of the time and won’t ask for a raise. Ever. Robots don’t need health or retirement benefits. Robots won’t get injured on the job and sue you. Robots make fresher hamburgers. Robots won’t steal from you. And then there’s the notion of space.
You know how they say that McDonalds is actually a realty company that sells hamburgers? This is because McDonalds owns some of the best commercial property in the world. Those properties come at a high cost making space a very expensive part of being a successful fast food operator. This Momentum Machines robot takes up a whole 24 square feet of space making it very appealing to those companies like McDonalds who are operating in prime real estate locations.
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