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Wendy's Turns to Self-Serve Kiosks to Offset Higher Labor Costs

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A whole new world

In a move meant to offset higher minimum wages taking effect in states across the country, fast-food giant Wendy's will be offering self-serve kiosks to many of its franchisees later this year.

Though some reports suggested the kiosks would be made available at all Wendy's by the end of 2016, spokesperson Bob Bertini says it will be up to individual franchisees whether or not they install the kiosks.

Below, the statement from Wendy's in full:

The majority of Wendy's restaurants are franchise-operated. We are in pilot now with self-service order kiosks, which we expect to make available for installation by our franchisees later in 2016. Whether they choose to do so will be up to them. Earlier news reports were not quite accurate. We did not say kiosks would be available at every restaurant by end of year. We do continue to invest in technology to help mitigate the inflation we are seeing on the wage front.

In an earnings call on Wednesday, company president Todd Penegor said that "managing labor pressure" will be critical "to make sure that we provide a new QSR [quick-service restaurant] experience but at traditional QSR prices."

Wendy's has placed an increasing emphasis on tech as wages have begun rising in regions across the country. Last year, the company opened a technology and innovation center called 90° Labs in Ohio, which it said would be used to "develop differentiating, interactive digital experiences for our customers, employees and franchise system."

Other restaurants are making similar moves to combat rising wages. McDonald's is testing self-serve kiosks in some of its stores, which CEO Steve Easterbrook called "progress" in the company's most recent earnings call. Some have speculated that the greater use of tablets — and even robots — could also be on the horizon. Other restaurants, like Shake Shack, are choosing instead to offset higher-wages the old-fashioned way: by raising prices.

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