Quoted: Burgers and bots

“The burgers of tomorrow could be made by robots — not employees.”

The Employment Policies Institute, in a Wall Street Journal ad arguing against a big U.S. fast-food workers strike Thursday, in which the workers are pushing to be paid at least $15 an hour. “The fight for $15 is a fight against technology, not management — and that’s a fight that these union-organized protesters can’t win. Instead of securing a bigger paycheck, the less-experienced employees demanding a more than 100 percent pay increase will find their jobs replaced by less-costly alternatives,” Michael Saltsman, research director at EPI, said in a statement, according to NPR. The NPR report mentions  automats, or serverless restaurants, in places such as Amsterdam. There, food is served by vending machines but are stocked by humans.

But back to the quotes by the EPI, which seem to be referring to production and assembling of food by robots. Seem far-fetched? Well, a San Francisco company called Momentum Machines is on it.

“Our alpha machine frees up all of the hamburger line cooks in a restaurant. It does everything employees can do except better,” the company’s website says. It also mentions that the company plans to launch a gourmet restaurant chain that sells burgers at fast-food prices.

Momentum acknowledges that if its technology is widely adopted, there go many fast-food jobs. Also on its website: “We want to help the people who may transition to a new job as a result of our technology the best way we know how: education. Our goal is to offer discounted technical training to any former line cook of a restaurant that uses our device.”


Photo: Fast-food workers and their supporters picket outside a Burger King restaurant in Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2013. Fast food workers walked off their jobs as part of a nationwide strike demanding higher wages and the right to form a union. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)


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