Restaurant replaces human employees with robots after Obama praised its high wages


A Shake Shack opening in New York City isn’t planning to offer many jobs. The fast-food establishment plans to open with a workforce of kiosks instead of human employees.

The kiosks will be set up to take orders on a “card only” basis, while a few “hospitality champs” will be available to deal with technical glitches in the new machinery, according to a report in the New York Post.

While the Shake Shack’s new East Village location is going “high-tech,” another location drew some attention in 2014. At that time, former President Barack Obama and then Vice President Joe Biden went to a Washington, D.C., area Shake Shack. Their visit was meant to highlight a business that paid its fast-food employees well, with high entry-level wages.

The photo-op (see below) saw Obama and Biden eating lunch with four workers, dining on burgers and fries, in a ploy to boost the administration’s push for a 40-percent hike in the federal minimum wage, from $7.25 to $10.10. Asked why the pair was eating at that establishment, Obama said it had “great burgers and pays its employees more than 10 bucks an hour.”

Now, less than five years later, Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti told the Post that the new, robot-led location is in response to the “needs of our guests.”

“The Astor Place Shack will be a playground where we can test and learn the ever-shifting needs of our guests,” Garutti reportedly said. “[It] represents our dedication to innovation and to providing the best for our guests and for our teams.”

Any employee hired at the automated restaurant will be paid $15 an hour, almost double the current federal minimum wage. Higher wages may not make up for fewer, entry-level jobs, however, according to The Washington Free Beacon. They cite a spokesman for American Rising Squared (AR2), an organization focused on advancing conservative principles and pushing back against big government policies.

“This is why the economic fantasies of Barack Obama and the ‘Fight For $15′ just aren’t practical when confronting the reality of running a business in 2017,” said AR2 spokesman Jeremy Adler. “As economists have been saying for years, the impact of dramatic minimum wage increases is fewer jobs and economic opportunities for working people, as Shake Shack is demonstrating today.”

California and New York have implemented plans to eventually get their minimum wages to $15 an hour in the next three to four years, and Seattle already did so in 2017.

Research into Seattle’s hike suggests it hasn’t helped local workers and may have harmed them. According to the University of Washington, low-income workers saw a decrease in their overall take-home pay in 2015, when the city moved to a $13 an hour minimum. According to the Beacon, the report indicated a reduction in hours due to the wage hike.

“The reduction in hours would cost the average employee $179 per month, while the wage increase would recoup only $54 of this loss, leaving a net loss of $125 per month (6.6%), which is sizable for a low-wage worker,” the report notes.

The new kiosk-staffed Shake Shack will open later in October.

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