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Will Robots Make Fast Food Workers Obsolete?

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A new report says yes.


A future where robots flip your burgers and make your waffle tacos may not be so far off. According to a new report from Cornerstone Capital Group, — a financial services firm — it makes fiscal sense for fast food companies to replace human employees with robots. Consider the following three factors: The increase in food prices thanks to climate change, the consequences of the Affordable Care Act— which Mashable writes would "boost the costs of employees," — and income equality which is "increasingly a point of social and political contention."

How soon until we order a burger and fries from a robot?

The restaurant industry is notorious for its slim profit margins: "Labor and food costs account for 60% to 70% of industry revenues." So if food prices keep going up, the only way to keep costs low is to cut the amount spent on employees. If fast food chains were to drastically raise prices they would lose a large number of customers.

The basic amount restaurant owners must spend on employees is set to increase too due to the Affordable Care Act. Now, chains must provide their full-time staff with health insurance. Additionally, multiple states and cities have passed laws or are considering laws to raise the minimum wage. Plus a growing number of restaurant employees have expressed discontent with how little they earn and are now protesting and striking for a more livable wage.

Cornerstone Capital's head of corporate governance John Wilson tells Mashable that "we shouldn't expect to see automated kitchens for another decade or so." But the trend appears to already be taking shape: A number of chains like Starbucks and McDonald's are releasing order- and pay-ahead features on their apps that may eventually "make cashiers redundant."

A number of restaurants in China have started toying around with robots: One restaurateur is building noodle making robots to fight rising labor costs while another is staffed entirely by robots.