walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Restaurant Automation and Politics

CNET had a May 2011 dated article about McDonald's hiring a bunch of people in the US, but setting up automated cashiers that only take debit or credit in Europe.


I have blogged about front of the house restaurant automation at Applebee's on numerous occasions -- here's my entry from the first time we actually used Presto:


I'm excited about front of the house restaurant automation for a lot of reasons. I have allergies, and I have this idea that if they automate ordering, maybe they'll include allergen information and allow special requests right in the system. This is delusional -- I get that! In a more realistic vein, I LOVE that it will calculate the tip or let you enter an arbitrary amount and then it will tell you what the percentage is. The worst thing about drinking (at least for me, since I'm way too old to stupidly get throwing up drunk any more) is the math skills deterioration. And I truly, madly, deeply love that I can put my kid's dessert order in, and then pay without having to try to flag a server down (the kitchen will send the order out with someone if the server doesn't notice it, which suggests that what front of the house automation will really do is change the power dynamic between the front and the back. Given how unpleasant front of the house folk can be to back of the house, that might not be the worst thing in the world). We usually eat our meals a little early (11:30 lunch, or no later than about noon; 5 or 5:30 dinner) which means by the end of the meal, the servers are often slammed and it's hard to get their attention long enough to do the round trip with the credit card. Best of all, emailed receipt!

Because until I was 25, I was median household income category or well below, and a JW (as a group, JWs are very poor and while nominally apolitical they are also very conservative), I have a lot of extended family and a few friends who are a lot further to the right than you might think from reading my blog. This showed up on my FB feed:


I _think_ this is the first time I've seen front of the house restaurant automation positioned politically. It will be interesting to see how this story develops. I don't think restaurant automation -- or any other automation -- is inherently political. However, there is a very, very long history of labor organizing around resistance to automation.

The subsequent comments on the FB post were really thoughtful, considering whether automation would reduce jobs, change jobs, net effect on costs to the owner, net effect on wages, etc. The OP was focusing on the importance of education with the goal of a skilled profession, to avoid losing out to the machines (for sure, that is a valid point).
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.