Adios, entry level jobs at the Golden Arches

Who could have possibly seen this coming? Well, pretty much everyone, really. John wrote last month about the supposed finalization of plans to roll out automated kiosks at McDonald’s stores around the country, though some were still claiming it was just a “partial addition” to their ordering functions. But for anyone who’s been paying attention, the home of Ronald McDonald has been installing kiosks and testing customer responses for well over a year now on a wide scale. They have also released a mobile ordering app for your phone similar to the one Dunkin Donuts uses. (Which, by the way, I can tell you is one of the most fantastic apps ever.)

But now that it’s becoming official, the gloves are coming off. There’s no longer any talk about the kiosks being “just another option” when you go to pick up your Royale’ with Cheese. Kiosks will be installed in all stores within two years and they will be the default, primary way of placing your order in person. (Assuming you don’t phone it in from the app.) And that means there will be very little use for any workers at the counters taking orders. (Forbes)

“Would you like fries with that?” may soon be a phrase of the past.

As minimum wage levels approach or surpass $15 nationwide, restaurant customers expecting to be greeted by a smiling face will instead be welcomed by a glowing LED screen.

As of 2020, self-service ordering kiosks will be implemented at all U.S. McDonald’s locations. Other chains, including fast-casual brands like Panera and casual-dining brands like Chili’s, have already embraced this trend…

While some consumers may appreciate the novelty or added convenience, the conveniences come at the cost of entry-level jobs.

The linked article was written by someone who knows a thing or two about this subject. His name is Ed Rensi, and he started out flipping burgers at McDonald’s when he was a teenager, rising through the ranks as a store manager and eventually becoming the CEO of McDonald’s USA.

For a while, McDonald’s has been trying to get the message across to people in a rather subtle way, highlighting their management training program, college preparation assistance and running advertisements talking about how working for them was “America’s best, first job.”

And that’s what these sorts of jobs were always supposed to be. First jobs. The place where you learn some of the basics of getting used to working for a living. Showing up on time, working on a team and putting out a product. You can also earn enough money to help work your way through school or just keep gas in your car until you either move up the ladder or move on to a permanent career. And the fast food industry – which runs on very tight profit margins for most franchise outlets – had the benefit of low-cost labor to run their operation.

But when the government decided to get involved on behalf of the unions and force these employers to pay double the previous wages, offer full healthcare, paid family leave and other benefits, the labor costs skyrocketed. At that point, expensive investments in automation technology suddenly began looking more affordable. And now that they’ve sunk the money into it there’s no turning back. Why would you go back to paying some kid to take orders when the kiosks take no time off (except for occasional maintenance or repairs), demand no benefits and work tirelessly from morning until night without needing a break?

And don’t forget about Flippy the robotic burger chef. Between Flippy and the kiosks, a story which once employed as many as two dozen people per shift might be down to three or four workers.

Congratulations to all of you union folks out there on the front lines of the Fight for 15. Mission accomplished. Now you won’t have to worry about fast food restaurants paying workers anything below “a living wage.” There just won’t be any jobs. Well done.