Robots replacing employees as minimum wage increases?

More and more I hear had workers hours are cut, the dining experience is changing because there are fewer people working on a shift, positions are being eliminated.  This can be a scary trend because restaurant owners are having to look at different options in staffing in order to not raise prices to their consumers.  There may be a time when the minimum wage may be $15/hr but no hourlie employees are getting hired.

There is now the first, fully automated burger restaurant (Bbox) in San Francisco who is fully automated.

Bbox serves a collection of hearty goods, including pastries and java from local purveyors Semifreddi’s and Highwire Coffee Roasters, respectively.

  • Save the customers filtering in and out of the young concept, there’s not a human in sight.
  • No cashier taking payment.
  • No barista handing out steaming cups of joe.
  • No kitchen worker plating breakfast sandwiches.

Rather, consumers order ahead via a mobile app before picking up their goods—prepped and loaded into a cubby by a robot—at the Bbox kiosk.

Bbox is undeniably futuristic, unapologetically bold, and, just possibly, a harbinger of things to come in the pressure-packed quick-service world, one in which high-tech tools like robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) have arrived to offer a competitive boost.

In San Francisco’s Bay Area, Zume Pizza uses robotics and AI to craft its pies, from pressing the dough and spreading the sauce to placing pizzas in the oven. Down the California coast in Pasadena, CaliBurger tested AI-powered facial recognition software that allowed customers to pay for their meals with a glance into the camera.

Over in Brooklyn, “sushi robots” produce upward of 400 rolls per hour at Bigeye Sushi. In Boston, four MIT engineering students teamed with chef Daniel Boulud to launch Spyce, where a robotic kitchen dishes globally inspired bowls as well as vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. And in Tokyo, a pop-up café called Dawn opened last November with an all-robot staff. Ten staff members with restrictive physical conditions like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (als) or spinal cord injuries controlled the café’s 4-foot robots from their homes.

But it’s not just the starry-eyed upstarts bringing the high-tech flavor. Last fall, Pizza Hut unveiled the PIE Pro, a delivery-focused innovation in which a pre-assembled pizza is cooked and sliced within the bed of a Toyota Tundra pickup truck before being dispensed to the customer.

Companies like Clinc and Encounter AI, meanwhile, are helping established quick-service players integrate AI into their drive thru to fuel a faster, more accurate experience. From prompting the customer to order and processing the request to sending the order to the restaurant’s point-of-sale system, Encounter AI’s technology processes a drive-thru order from end to end. Staff members only collect payment and supply the food.

From labor to food to real estate, quick-service restaurants face various cost pressures that threaten long-term sustainability. Technology has long been viewed as an antidote to such woes, especially given the potential of innovative tools like robotics and AI to improve unit-level economics.

In fact, that’s what led Becker and Lessans—who witnessed the launch and growth of Roti Modern Mediterranean firsthand through family connections—to investigate industrial automation’s place in quick-service restaurants.

“We saw the challenges of the [quick-service] model from the very beginning with Roti, so our idea was to leverage technology to lure better restaurant economics,” Becker says. “The guiding question was: How can we build a better restaurant business model to save as much margin as possible?”

Concepts like Bbox offer impressive cost-savings potential at a time of unprecedented cost pressures. At Spyce, for instance, CEO Michael Farid says the restaurant only needs about four staff members to gracefully man the lunch rush.

“The overhead savings are clear and obvious, and that certainly helps with a brand’s long-term prospects,” Farid says.

CONSISTENTLY DELIVERING A DESIRABLE PRODUCT

Voting regularly with their wallets, consumers have set a high bar for freshness and ingredient sourcing. When a restaurant can develop an appealing culinary formula and then replicate those meals time and time again, it’s an attractive proposition to both the consumer and the operator.

From seasonings shaken out to the gram to expertly toasted buns, Creator’s robot kitchen prepares the concept’s burgers with absolute precision. Freshness and accuracy reign, and consumers see the sustainably sourced ingredients come together before their eyes like never before.

“Robotics make it possible to offer the transparency customers crave,” says David Bordow, Creator’s culinary lead and experience designer.

Enhanced value proposition

Buoyed by improved unit-level economics and precision, high-tech tools also democratize high-quality food and gourmet culinary techniques.

Starting at $6, Creator’s burgers feature pastured, ethically raised beef and ingredients from smaller, local farms. And because the burgers are created—quite literally—at the press of a button, the eatery can spend more of its time on sourcing and maintaining an accessible price point.

At Bbox, meanwhile, a 12-ounce serving of Highwire Coffee runs $2, about half the price that same cup commands elsewhere.

“We’re taking all the savings we’re getting and putting them directly into high-quality items at lower prices,” Becker says.

Back

What Clients Say About Patrice & Associates

  • David Israel was a pleasure to work with and was instrumental in helping me find an excellent career opportunity .

    David was extremely professional and took the time to really listen to where I was in my career and what I was looking for. As a result of the work he did to connect me with the right opportunity, I was able to obtain a great starting salary and great benefits as well. I would highly recommend David’s services to both job seekers and employers. Josh Axmacher David Israel was a pleasure to work with!
  • Tim was nothing but helpful from the start!

    I was originally contacted by Tim as a reference for someone who used to work for me. He must have recognized that I myself was a good fit, because within a few minutes the conversation turned to me applying for the job.  He was always pushing for me. He was there to help with everything, every step of the way, and was in constant communication. He played a massive role in me landing an amazing job with an even better company. I can't stress enough how awesome this guy was. Tim will coach you through the entire process and be your biggest advocate. He has a lifetime of experience and knows exactly what companies are looking for. A+, 10/10, two thumbs up, 5-stars. Thanks for everything Tim! Brock Kinley Tim was nothing but helpful from the start
  • Tim was very patient and thorough when going through the process of trying to find employment for me and my skills. I appreciate the time and effort he put in for me and I would recommend Tim Walker & Patrice and Associates to anyone looking for great opportunities. Carolyn Floyd Tim was very patient & thorough!
  • Chris was amazing through the entire application and interview processes, 10 out of 10.

    He took his time to get to know me and really ensure that I was what he was looking for. He ensured that I had information about the hiring company to ensure it was something I felt I wanted to pursue. Chris also gave me some helpful tips and tricks in his emails about the interview process, you could tell that he was doing everything on his end to help you, it all just came down to how well you executed on your end. I would certainly recommend anyone looking for opportunities to reach out to Chris, the first possibility didn’t work out that we were attempting but he came back and nailed it with the second opportunity.
    Cody Smith
    Chris was amazing through the entire application and interview processes, 10 out of 10.
  • It was an amazing opportunity to work with David Hotovyy!

    David set me up with a great opportunity in my field as a restaurant General Manager. He really takes the time to get to know who you are and what you're about, what's important to you in your career and home life.   I would definitely recommend working with David,  and have actually passed on his contract info to several others already!
    Thank you David Hotovy & Patrice and Associates for helping me find something that is just right for me!
    Rebecca Jackson
    It was an amazing opportunity to work with David Hotovy!