On Tuesday night my family and I had dinner at a Fuddruckers in Orlando. It was late in the evening. Our experience poignantly pointed out that the real danger to American entry-level jobs is not immigrants, but rather automation. Let’s look at our experience at Fuddruckers.
Anti-immigrants and those who fear low-wage immigrants argue that American citizens suffer from immigrants taking their jobs. They argue that immigrants, legal and undocumented, take the jobs that Americans need. They also argue that immigrants keep wages low.
As I have written previously, the highest cost any business has is labor. As such, business look for ways to keep labor costs down.
Our dinner at Fuddruckers poignantly pointed this out as well as pointing out that Americans are fearing the wrong things for low wages and access to jobs.
It was close to seven in the evening when we arrived at Fuddruckers. There were two employees.
We were greeted by kiosks where we were to place our orders. The first thing the kiosk asked us to do was to grab a restaurant coaster pager, conveniently located next to the kiosk. The kiosk than demanded that we enter the two-digit number for the pager we grabbed.
Only then were we allowed to proceed with our order.
I am computer literate as I work in the technology sector, so I am not averse to technology. But the last thing I need at dinner time is to decipher what a description means on the screen or whether I will be given an opportunity later in the order workflow to make specific requests, for example, extra grilled onions. As sophisticated as the technology is, it limits my ability to ask for specific changes to my order.
I go out to dinner for convenience and not to work on technology.
My thirteen-year-old had no problem placing his order so it is not about functionality but, rather about convenience.
The kiosk happily took our payment after we placed our orders.
The first and only time we had any human interaction was when the kiosk spit out a ticket directing one of the two employees, behind the counter, to give us cups for our drinks.
Apparently, there has being no technology developed to keep people from stealing soft drinks from restaurants but I’m sure in time, your DNA will allow you access to the Coke machine in the future.
From there we poured our own drinks, gathered our own silverware and dressings for our hamburgers and sat ourselves down. We waited until our pager went off.
We had to get our own food from the pickup station.
That is the future of the service industries. We only saw one of two employees because we needed to get our drink cups. Had it not been for the need to keep people from stealing Cokes, it is likely we would not have interacted with any employee. Even then, the employees never came out from behind the counter.
In not too far in the future, fast-food restaurants will be fully automated eating boxes where the only human interaction will be those eating there. Consumers will push buttons, go to the pickup point and get their foods. Initially, there might be cooks cooking the food, but they will also be replaced by automated cooking robots as well.
Fuddruckers gave us a glimpse into what the future holds for entry-level jobs.
What will the anti-immigrant proponents do then? Grab pitchforks and demand an end to robots?