Robots: Are they the wave of the restaurant future?

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In a fashion many small business owners would classify as painstakingly slow, the nation’s restaurants are beginning to re-open. Much has changed since governors across the country mandated a shutdown of restaurants although some were permitted to stay open for drive-thru or curbside pickup services. After COVID-19 (Will there ever BE an “after” COVID-19?) restaurants may look a lot different than their pre-pandemic states. Don’t be surprised if you start seeing robots rather than human employees in your local fast food establishments!

Robots just might be working the line when you stroll into your favorite burger joint in the foreseeable future. In fact, if you happen to live in Chicago and are a fan of White Castle, you might get a chance to meet Flippy. He is the newest line worker at the company. His specific duty is to cook and dish up french fries. Flippy is a robot that operates on overhead rails. “He” can slide back and forth dropping fries into baskets and scooping out fresh orders of mozzarella sticks and onion rings, too!

Do robots make better employees than humans?

White Castle is an icon of pop culture in America. It’s been around for nearly a century. In fact, the restaurant was the first to add a plant-based burger to its menu. The vice president of the company says there are many potential benefits to having robots replace human workers on the line.

Jamie Richardson, White Castle VP, says robots can’t get hurt on the job. Especially in the fast food industry, human employees are at risk for on-the-job injuries such as burns, slips and falls and other issues. Richardson says there may be less workers’ comp claims if companies hire robots instead of people.

Another potential benefit to employers of hiring robots instead of humans is that robots don’t take vacations or request time off. They don’t get sick or become fatigued, and they can’t whine or complain about their jobs!

The workplace in a COVID-19 world

If you’ve been grocery shopping or to a restaurant lately, you may have noticed that the layout of the store or food place has changed. Stores are widening their aisles and restaurants are spacing tables farther apart. Government edicts for “social distancing” have prompted these changes.

White Castle’s VP said he believes it’s important to move into the restaurant future in an innovative manner. Robots accommodate supposed needs for less human-to-human interaction.

Did these people forget that humans will lose jobs?

A lot of people in the United States live paycheck to paycheck and earn their livings in entry level positions. Robots are amazing inventions. However, is it worth increasing the rate of unemployment if companies start replacing human workers with robotic machines?

It also bears mentioning that human-to-human interaction is a much needed activity. There are myriad studies that show the negative effects of isolation and lack of human touch or social interaction. Are robots more efficient than human employees? Probably. Can hiring them save companies money because they’ll have less humans on the payroll? Possibly, but whether that’s true in terms of the long-run remains to be seen.

Potential downsides of hiring robots

Where there are robots, there will be maintenance expenses and repair fees when malfunctions occur. Robots are also less flexible than human workers. They’re programmed to do certain things but are incapable of improvising or adapting to a course of events that isn’t part of their programmed systems.

The high capital expenditure needed to automate a restaurant or other business may wind up being more expensive than cutting paychecks for a list of human employees each week. There are also potential negative effects that may occur in our economy if more and more businesses become automated. The U.S. economy is stimulated through free trading of stocks. As society becomes more automated, it may intersect the stock market. There will no longer be a need for human investors as trading will be done through automated algorithms. Some analysts say that more than 5 million jobs will be lost to humans when robots become more common in the workplace.

Robots can never be creative or innovative

There are clearly potential benefits as well as downsides to a robotic world. I can’t help but wonder, however, how great a void we might experience when humans are set aside in the workplace in favor of robots. Each and every human being is an irreplaceable, unrepeatable, unique creation of God. Robots cannot invent things. They can’t think or reason. They can’t be spontaneous.

Robots can’t joyfully serve others or show love. We must ask ourselves why we would want to erase the face of humanity from the workplace? I’ve read about robotic surgeries performed from remote access locations and other amazing technological feats. Such advancements may have a useful place in the future of our society as long as humans retain the position of prominence. Automated systems can supplement human success but should never be viewed as viable replacements. People add value to the workplace and economy that mere machines do not possess.

What are your thoughts on robots replacing human employees in the workforce?



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