One reason our economy has done as well as it has over the last eight years (and it has done very well, thank you, despite what Trump and Sanders say) is that our cost of labor has gone down. People decry "income inequality" (as if how much someone else makes is relevant to your own personal happiness) and others whine that "real wages" have not gone up in decades.
So what does this have to do with employment?
The problem is, when you make labor more expensive, like any other commodity, people will buy less of it, or use it more wisely. If you demand more money for work, expect them to make you work harder for the money - or have better job skills.
And it goes without saying that if your labor costs more, automation looks more attractive - as does outsourcing, contracting, and the like.
Fast food at first seems like a place where labor is pretty fixed. But outsourcing is already being used in some high-labor cost areas. In Hawaii, they use people in Texas and California to take orders in the drive-through because the cost of labor in Hawaii is so high. Of course, you could even outsource this further to India, but odds are, the garbled messages to Indian call centers would result in garbled orders. But it is possible to move work electronically (or physically) to places where labor is cheaper.
Automation is another effect. A few years back, we wen to France and I wanted to order some pomme frites, which are large slices of potatoes, fried, to accompany our pizza (yes, I know, French cuisine!). They used Kiosks in the store to place orders, instead of servers. And it was a lot more accurate, faster (no standing in line) and when the order was done, they brought it to your table.
Already, many fast-food outlets in America are promising to bring these kiosks to America. It may be less personal, but it beats standing in line behind the guy who says, "I'll have an, uhhh..... uhhhh.... uhhhh......" for ten minutes.
The back of the house is not immune, and in fact, ripe for automation. French fries, for example, are already made in vending machines. I tried one nearly 30 years ago when I was in Law School. The technology is there already, it just isn't cost-effective yet because labor rates are so attractive.
Making burgers? How many times have you been to a fast-food place and saw the marvelous photo of the delectable burger on the menu only to find a mashed-up nightmare after you order it? This sort of thing is ripe for automation. And hey, lets not even talk about the decreased risk of food-borne illness. Chipolte should be jumping all over this.
Of course, a full-fledged fast-food vending kiosk maybe years away - or would it ?
Raising wages sounds like a great deal, until you realize that it raises the cost of making things and selling things, which in turn means either prices are going to go up, or you are going to price yourself out of a job.
We went thought this in the 1970's with stagflation. Wages rose so quickly and labor became so expensive that a lot of manufacturing plants closed and closed permanently in the 1980's and 1990's. Most of those jobs are never coming back, ever, at least in high-cost union markets in the rust belt.
You can have high wages or you can have high employment. You generally can't have both.
A reader writes:
The problem with monetized blogs and news sites is that you get paid based on hits, not based on truth or quality. In a recent NYT article, they profiled a teenager in Macedonia who makes tens of thousands of dollars a month writing outlandish articles about Trump (pro-Trump) and Clinton (anti-Clinton). The Trump supporters click on them and believe them, and he makes money on each click."I read your article about the minimum wage hike and did some additional research on the 'remote call center drive thru' and came across this article. Seems as though the idea of kiosk ordering is "coming right up!"P.S. I noticed that if you Google "McDonald's Kiosk", there is a SLEW of "newz articles" that would lead one to believe that the roll out of this is going to happen NOW...not yesterday, or as stores update, but NOW and it's because it's because of the min wage fight. And of course, the folks at McD's have said no such thing. I hate that it is so tough to find out ACTUAL facts...it's quite annoying and frankly I am usually too damn lazy to dig too deep. I guess it's good I ignore most of the "newz" out there anyway!"
Fake news sells. And a topical story to sell is that Kiosks will be here tomorrow, when in fact, it may take months or years for fast-food automation to be implemented. But it will be implemented, and a higher minimum wage WILL speed the process.