Robots Could Take Over Fast Food Jobs

Robots are now cooking food at fast food restaurants. In recent months, some fast food workers have been staging walkouts, complaining of low pay and a lack of benefits. But a new trend suggests that they may face competition that doesn't care what hours they work, or what they're paid. Fast food chains in Japan, China and Great Britain have begun piloting the use of robots to cook meals. And while robots have been emerging in recent years as a boon for completing menial tasks like dispensing medicines in hospitals, these fast food robots are capable of preparing full sushi rolls or noodle dishes for Asian food outlets. In many cases, customers complete their orders through a touchscreen, which then alerts the robot how to prepare the meal. No humans needed.

It stands to reason that American fast food companies will adopt the robots at some point. One new fast food robot is the noodle-slicing "Chef Cui" in China, which as The Associated Press reports, costs restaurateurs 30,000 Chinese yuan to buy, or about $2,000. Comparatively, a human noodle chef is paid about $4,700 a year in China, according to the AP.

For Liu Maohu, a noodle restaurant owner in Beijing, the choice of hiring a robot over a human is easy. "The robot chef can slice noodles better than human chefs," he told the AP. "And it is much cheaper than a real human chef."

This is just the beginning, too. A report by the McKinsey & Company consulting group says that robots will occupy about 1 out of every 8 commercial service jobs by 2025. And for fields like manufacturing, packing, construction and maintenance, the figure is roughly 1 in 4. To reach those numbers, companies will have to invest roughly $1.4 trillion, according to McKinsey.

More: 7 Jobs That Can Be Done By A Robot [Infographic]


Robots work on farms: Robots also are being used in the agricultural process. A group of dairy farmers in New York are using European-made robots and putting them to work milking herds. And as the AP recently reported, robots are entering the "last frontier of agricultural mechanization" -- fruit and vegetable field work. Previously, robots were not used for such work, because they weren't sensitive enough to handle the produce, which led to undesired bruising. The new robots, with names such as Lettuce Bot, are now endowed with advanced sensors and high-precision GPS location technologies to ensure the produce isn't damaged.

What will that mean for fast food workers?: In the past year, workers have staged brief walkouts at their jobs in seven U.S. cities, to draw attention to their demand that their wages -- usually close to the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour -- be doubled to $15 an hour. "The saddest thing about this story is that probably 10 years from now robots will replace human beings ... and low-skill workers will have really no place to go," John Curley, a radio host for KIRO in Seattle, said in a recent report about fast food protests that took place in that city.

In an e-mail to AOL Jobs, Hudson Riehle, a senior vice president for the National Restaurant Association wrote robots won't "replace the human factor" in the industry. He said a "personal touch" is "essential" throughout the industry. Indeed, his trade group projects the industry to continue growing over the next decade and add roughly a million new workers by 2023. Currently, there are 13.1 workers in the restaurant industry in America, according to the association.

Yet on his show Curley raised examples where robots were already replacing workers. To back up his claim, he pointed to McDonald's and the Japanese sushi chain, Kura. As he shared on his show, McDonald's just installed 7,000 touch-screens throughout Europe, eliminating the need for workers to take customers' orders. Kura, for its part, has been able to fully eliminate cashiers from their workflow. In their place, the chain has installed scales in their branches that customers use to weigh their food. The customers are then asked to leave the money in a bucket, similar to paying a highway toll.

A San Francisco company, called Momentum Machines, already has created a robotic assembly line that can assemble 360 hamburgers an hour. The company says the device could save fast food outlets $135,000 a year in labor costs, reports Digital Trends.

What do you think about the use of robots in the fast food industry? Share your comments below.


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104 Comments

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Robert J Romero

Doesn't anybody get it? This place called Earth is slowly becoming computer world.

September 26 2013 at 4:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Robert J Romero's comment
eagleflying100

why do waitress's stand around and expect a 15-20% tip for nothing. Time to go!

August 18 2014 at 6:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Johnnie Wilson

Type your comment here
The same jobs they are eliminating will reduce the amount of disposable income in America in return reducing the profitability of their own businesses and other industries. Keep robots in positions deemed to dangerous or hazzordous for human labor.

July 31 2013 at 7:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
RedScourge

I believe an unanticipated side effect of the increasing mechanization of the economy is that far fewer financial transactions will take place because prices will fall and entire industries will be mechanized, meaning that the real problem - the politicians - are finally starved out. They of course are the easiest to replace with robots, given that they already only simulate emotion or regard for human life as it is, but when it is no longer feasible for them to live so large, they will disappear very quickly.

I for one welcome our new robot overlords.

July 21 2013 at 8:17 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to RedScourge's comment
rls498

Really like the robot/politician aspect in your post. I'll add this to my "In a perfect world" list next to Term Limits. :)

August 06 2013 at 12:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rls498

Forgot to add a "Thumbs Up" to my reply.

August 06 2013 at 12:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
slop9124

Robots have taken over many jobs in all sorts of work. The corperations like robots and automation because this cuts out the human worker. The human wants a fare salary, decent hours and benefits. Robots don't need any of this and they don't get sick, this elimates plenty benefits big companies pay. Robots don't need a vacation or health insurance and time off for illness. They can be called slaves because they do only what they are programmed to do, even if it means working 24 hours a day seven days a week, that's more money in coperate coffers. Gone are all the people that the phone company had to connect your call or the paper shufflers that filed all those file cabinets with our records. This is progress, but what happens when the computers go haywire or get infected by a virus? We all use technology and want even more, soon our brains won't function and we'll be so reliant in the future on machines that we won't know what to do when they break.

July 19 2013 at 2:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dazed1821

Here's an article on the hamburger making machine that makes 360 burgers an hour. Producing the demo cost the company $50,000 and it's only been in production a year so there is not any word on maintenance costs. You'd definitely need someone to fill the chutes of the robot.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2234879/See-restaurant-future-food-cooked-entirely-ROBOTS.html

July 19 2013 at 2:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dazed1821

I'm betting money the initial costs of these robots and maintenance make them unfeasible. The robot restaurant I just read states the price of its robots was 20-30,000 pounds. That's about twice the cost of a fast food worker. Additionally since robots need maintenance they'll need staff to maintain them. The robots need to recharge after 5 hours before needing 2 hours to recharge so technically they don't even have an advantage to a human in terms of "breaks"

July 19 2013 at 2:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
babby201

Well ,they won't spit in your big mac .

July 18 2013 at 11:48 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
shymathguy99

Marvin Minsky of MIT spent decades and millions of research dollars trying to build robots and calling it "Artificial Intelligence". Now there are 3 robots that walk, made by Toyota, Honda and Sony. Yet AI conferences still have only professors and nobody from industry invited to talk, giving papers or receiving awards.

These robots are just more proof that academia in America is BS. Private industry is light years ahead of the "professors". Yet the government still pays these frauds millions and so many people have such respect for "professors". No wonder we're behind the rest of the world acadmically.

July 18 2013 at 11:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
davidjohnwerner

scre robots love is unsigned.com/kmarwolfhalen

July 18 2013 at 11:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dlordmagic

It's going to happen, whether we want it to or not. it's time to start adapting. Of course once they realize that the people who buy these goods, are actually the ones working there currently. Prices will begin to plummet everywhere, but the quality will remain. In other words you won't need to work that often, because production will be so efficient, they won't be able to give away everything. The foundations are beginning to lay itself down for this improved upon capitalist system after the business leaders realize that there will be a high need for a highly trained labor force that can maintain all these robotic functions. That will become the new model for the economy, moving away from production labor to maintenance labor.

July 18 2013 at 11:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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