The CEO of fast food restaurants Carl’s Jr. has announced plans to replace the entire workforce with robots, following in the footsteps of Eatsa – a San Fransisco based restaurant staffed entirely by machines.
CEO Andy Puzder told the Business Insider, “We could have a restaurant that’s focused on all-natural products and is much like an Eatsa, where you order on a kiosk, you pay with a credit or debit card, your order pops up, and you never see a person.”
The move could help the fast food giant cope with rising minimum wages across the country.
“With government driving up the cost of labor, it’s driving down the number of jobs,” he says, predicting the automation trend will likely extend beyond the restaurant industry. “You’re going to see automation not just in airports and grocery stores, but in restaurants.”
The outspoken critic of raising the minimum wage has said it could lead to reduced employment opportunities across the board and stagnated growth for his industry.
If the minimum wage is raised, argues Puzder, more companies like CKE foods which owns Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr will look to automate faster— which could further decimate jobs.
“If you’re making labor more expensive, and automation less expensive — this is not rocket science,” says Puzder.
The CEO acknowledges that it may be some time before Carl’s Jr is people-free as it would take a pretty sophisticated machine to handle all the nuances of their kitchen. Even at Eatsa, while the ordering process is 100 devoid of any pesky human interaction, live workers behind the scenes still assemble bowls.
But Puzder says he sees automation fulfilling “rote tasks like grilling a burger or taking an order”—areas in which a robot would probably be more precise than a human.
And while older customers may take some time to adapt to interacting with a faceless platform, Puzder says the coveted millennial market actually prefers as little social interaction as possible when it comes to ordering food.
“Millennials like not seeing people,” said the CEO. “I’ve been inside restaurants where we’ve installed ordering kiosks … and I’ve actually seen young people waiting in line to use the kiosk where there’s a person standing behind the counter, waiting on nobody.”