Well, that didn’t take long at all. Rather than waiting to see how the Fight for 15 turns out, fast food chain Wendy’s announced this week that they will be moving into the world of automated sales at some of their restaurants starting with a pilot program in Ohio. The technology they are installing has already been available and in use for some time in Europe and Asia, as well as in other point of sales applications in America. But for those who have been so loudly arguing in favor of a “living wage” for people taking starter jobs asking if you would like fries with that, this announcement has some ominous portents. (Business Insider)

Wendy’s says it plans to install self-ordering kiosks at about 1,000 locations by the end of the year.

A typical location would have three kiosks, The Columbus Dispatch reported. Higher-volume restaurants will be given priority for the kiosks.

Wendy’s chief information officer, David Trimm, said the kiosks are intended to appeal to younger customers and reduce labor costs. Kiosks also allow customers of the fast food giant to circumvent long lines during peak dining hours while increasing kitchen production.

Trim estimates the company will see a return on its investment in less than two years.

Even if there isn’t going to be a national minimum wage of $15 per hour coming along this year, the writing already seems to be on the wall. Many states have moved forward with incremental increases which will drive labor costs up to or near that level over the next few years. In New York we will probably see that minimum wage level in the city in the very near future, while upstate regions will lag a bit further behind. As more and more areas bow to the social pressures being exerted by activists, employers no doubt foresee more of the same on the horizon.

The kiosk system will likely be familiar to all but the oldest consumers and is easy to master. Customers willing to use a credit or debit card instead of cash can place their order from a menu complete with pictures which should be readily understandable even to the reading challenged. Once the electronic transaction is completed, a receipt with an order number is printed out and the customer simply waits for their meal to arrive at the counter. For the time being there will still be a need for workers to actually cook the food in the back, a manager to supervise the operation and a smaller number of cashiers to handle orders from customers who insist on paying cash. But the total number of workers required will go down, softening the blow to the company’s labor costs in advance of the anticipated increases in the minimum wage.

Even the kiosk solution is a temporary one, as Wendy’s freely admits. New smart phone apps are already in use among some retailers which allow customers to place their orders before they even arrive inside the store. As that technology becomes more widely accepted, the kiosks will also likely go the way of the dinosaur.

In any event, the social justice warriors seem to have truly struck a telling blow which is producing results. The era of starter jobs where someone with only a high school diploma and no real world job experience can get their foot in the door and begin building a resume appears to be shrinking, if not drawing entirely to a close. There will be stiffer competition for the few remaining jobs on this level so employers will be able to be more choosy, potentially shutting out those with only high school diplomas entirely.