By Amy Alkon
shared this story
from Advice Goddess Blog.
“The Employee Of The Month Has A Battery”
I was drawn to that headline on the WSJ story by Michael Saltsman about the unintended consequences of increases in the minimum wage — which probably most regular commenters here can predict: a rush to automate.
Ten years ago it might have seemed far-fetched that a customer could order food in a restaurant without speaking to anyone. But it’s a reality now as service employers across the country–including Chili’s, Chevys Fresh Mex and California Pizza Kitchen–introduce tabletop ordering devices. A few clicks on an iPad-like device and the food is on its way.
Technology has made these changes possible, but that’s not what’s driving their implementation. Steady federal and state increases to the minimum wage have forced employers in retail and service industries to rely on technology as the government makes entry-level labor more expensive. Now Democrats are pushing to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 from $7.25 at the behest of President Obama, who argued in his State of the Union address that the increase would “help families.” Lawmakers should consider the technology trend a warning.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates made the connection in a recent interview on MSNBC. Asked if he supported a higher minimum wage, Mr. Gates urged caution and said the policy would create an incentive for employers to “buy machines and automate things.”
Saltsman continues (from the unintended consequences department):
“Efficiency” is the positive public face of these changes. Chris Sullivan –a co-founder of Outback Steakhouse who now works with MenuPad, a tablet-ordering company–explained his product to me this way: “It increases productivity, allowing servers to wait on more tables.” That means tips may increase for some.
But the flip-side of more efficiency is a 20%-25% drop in the number of waitstaff necessary to run a restaurant.
There’s no limit on who can be replaced: San Francisco-based Momentum Machines has a burger-flipping robot that replaces three full-time kitchen staff, makes no wage demands and stages no walkouts.