Jonathan Kent

Director of Communications, Black Coffee Communications
Communications Director, Strategist | Corporate PR, Digital and Offline Content Direction
  • Posted on: 06/29/2018

    Is making burgers now a job for robots?

    A while ago, one of the Chicago universities did a study into the effects of setting a minimum wage. The broad upshot is that certain businesses would go to the wall -- however the study concluded that they would simply be replaced by other businesses that could pay the minimum wage. Nor did it suggest that it would necessarily mean consumers paying more -- rather a legacy fast food restaurant would be replaced with an insurgent that had a different business model that could accommodate higher wages. The point in this case is that businesses are constantly looking for ways to save money, and automation may be one of those. However that may in itself create a gap in the market for competitors to offer something different. If Burger King goes fully automated, perhaps McDonald's increases the human contact quotient, automating the kitchen but providing more time for staff to interact with customers. We're already seeing distinct trends in how people dispose of their incomes in the West with a shift from stuff to experiences. We also know that many people who feel isolated and lonely value the human interactions they have with postal workers and checkout staff. So when a business considers automation it needs to know where it's planning to be in the market -- if it wants to offer a human-free, price-driven service fine, but that may lose it customers as well as gaining some, and open the door to competitors. On the other hand it could take the saving and redirect it towards paying staff to do what humans (generally ... we can all point to exceptions) do best -- interact with other humans. However there are sectors where human contact is not a major component. When AI allows employers to automate clerical and professional jobs, and once we've been through the "we need humans to clear up the mess when the bots screw up" phase, then heaven only knows what the impact on employment will be.
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