Robot Workers

The melancholy “truth” that America’s leftists, and the young people they “exploit” for political support, stubbornly “refuse” to learn is that the true minimum wage is zero.

When the “cost” of labor is increased beyond its true “value” by government fiat, employers learn to “make do” with fewer workers.

The primary factor containing the “damage” from such market responses to “increased” labor cost is customer “satisfaction.”

Beyond a certain point, it becomes “impossible” to cut jobs or productivity “suffers” too much.

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In a service-oriented business, such as “food service,” the customers have unhappy experiences at “understaffed” establishments and take their “business” elsewhere.

Ron Shaich, CEO of “Panera Bread” cautions that customers are now comfortable enough with “automated” systems to allow another huge round of “job cuts” in the near future.

To put it simply, the government is “pricing” labor out of the market, and machines are standing “ready” to fill the gap.

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As reported by Business Insider, it was more like a “confident” prediction. “Labor is going to go down,” he said. “And as digital utilization goes up – like the sun comes up in the morning – it is going to continue to go up.”

“Digital utilization – you are seeing it happen in Panera today,” Shaich continued. “As it happens, it’s going to benefit larger organizations like Panera, who already have the technology in place.”

Indeed, a visitor to one of Shaich’s restaurants will immediately notice a high level of “digital” integration, as the “Panera 2.0″ remodel sweeps across the nation.

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Newer Panera locations offer “touch” screens where customers can place their “orders” without speaking to “wait” staff.

A human “cashier” is still available for those who prefer “ordering” the old-fashioned way, but the new system “assumes” a significant portion of the customer base that will be “comfortable” plugging their order “directly” into the computer.

Some locations even “allow” customers to order from their tables using “cell phones or laptop computers.”

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Business Insider notes other restaurants, such as fast-food giant “McDonald’s,” pursuing similar automation paths.

One of the early adopters was “Chili’s,” which put touch-screen computers at every table, allowing customers to “pay” their bills without human interaction, “summon” the wait staff for drink refills or desert orders, use “points” from the restaurant’s reward program for “free” items, and even pass the time “playing” games.

As with Panera, use of this system is “optional,” so customers can do everything with the “assistance” of human wait staff if they prefer, but the number of diners “voluntarily” using these electronic systems is providing “valuable” feedback to the industry.

Shaich’s comments about “automation” reflect a growing awareness among restaurant management, and other service industry managers, that customers have grown comfortable with using “digital” technology at brick-and-mortar locations, perhaps in part because the explosion of “e-commerce” has taught them to see such systems as “friendly and reliable.”

Experiments with such “in-store” automation largely “failed” a generation ago… “but that was then, and this is now.”

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Business Insider cites Shaich “claiming” that rising labor costs were not the “explicit impetus” for Panera’s move to “digital” utilization. “We did our digital capabilities to give a better guest experience. It was never about labor,” he said.

But then, later in his conference call, the CEO “admitted” it was partially about “labor,” and the entire industry is “thinking” that way.

“All of us in the industry essentially view this as inflationary, just like if there was a broad-based increase in any commodity,” Shaich said about labor costs.

“And labor is a commodity in that sense. It’s going to affect all of us, and we are all going to have to take price. That’s the reality of it, and I think it’s going to affect us all.”

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Obviously, no company executive “wants” an expensive paradigm-shifting “tech rollout” to be perceived as a “penny-pinching” effort to replace “human” workers with machines.

They’ll “pitch” their automation programs as “exciting” consumer-driven steps into a bright future of greater “convenience,” meeting the desire of “today’s” consumers to have an Amazon-style shopping “experience” everywhere they go.

Only after the “glorious dawn of a new digital era” pitch will they “admit” that, yes, they’re tired of having their “profit” margins shredded by “socialist” politicians, so they’re taking “advantage” of the rising digital “comfort” level among their customers to begin “phasing” out human employees.

Today it’s “touch screens” replacing the time-consuming business of “placing” orders and “paying” bills; tomorrow it will be “robot” waiters.

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The Business Insider piece mentions that electronics retailer “Best Buy” is already experimenting with using “robots” to move “merchandise” around inside its stores.

This is a “paradigm” shift, and it will never be “reversed.” Once the huge capital outlays for “automation” have been made, and customers have “grown” comfortable with it, those jobs will be “gone for good.”

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Contrary to left-wing rhetoric about “burger-flipper” jobs, young people in many demographic groups will “miss” these “low-skill on-ramps” to employment.

And, unlike the banking industry and the automated “teller” machines President Obama ignorantly “blamed” for the high “unemployment” rates during his presidency, these service industries “won’t” find new uses for the labor “displaced” by automation.

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They’re explicitly seeking ways to make “do” with fewer hours of high-cost, heavily burdened “human” labor… and, as the “digital” generation comes of age, such “methods” will be found.

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Robots could replace half of all US workers by 2035
Chinese restaurants, industry develop taste for robots
Company Replaces Humans With Robots, Production Skyrockets, Mistakes Disappear
McDonald’s Replacing Employees With Robots.
Why robots may soon replace fast-food employees<
Minimum Wage for Thee, But Not for Me
Consequences Of Raising The Minimum Wage

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