In yet another awkwardly rational response to government intervention in deciding what’s “fair”, the blowback from minimum wage demanding fast food workers has struck again. Wendy’s plans to install self-ordering kiosks in 1,000 of its stores – 16% of its locations nationwide.
“Last year was tough — 5 percent wage inflation,” said Bob Wright, Wendy’s chief operating officer, during his presentation to investors and analysts last week. He added that the company expects wages to rise 4 percent in 2017. “But the real question is what are we doing about it?”
Wright noted that over the past two years, Wendy’s has figured out how to eliminate 31 hours of labor per week from its restaurants and is now working to use technology, such as kiosks, to increase efficiency.
“There is a huge amount of pull from (franchisees) in order to get them,” David Trimm, Wendy’s chief information officer, said last week during the company’s investors’ day.
“With the demand we are seeing … we can absolutely see our way to having 1,000 or more restaurants live with kiosks by the end of the year.”
A typical store would get three kiosks for about $15,000. Trimm estimated the payback on those machines would be less than two years, thanks to labor savings and increased sales. Customers still could order at the counter.
Kiosks are where the industry is headed, but Wendy’s is ahead of the curve, said Darren Tristano, vice president with Technomic, a food-service research and consulting firm.
“They are looking to improve their automation and their labor costs, and this is a good way to do it,” he said.
As Nobelist Milton Friedman correctly quipped, “A minimum wage law is, in reality, a law that makes it illegal for an employer to hire a person with limited skills.”
Despite the piling up mountain of evidence on the harmful “unintended consequences” of artificially high minimum wages, we suspect we already know how this story ends. After all, it’s much easier to win elections by promising people more stuff rather than less. And, as an added bonus, when it all goes horribly wrong it’s very easy to lame the blame at the feet of the wealthy 1%’ers who are behind all the layoffs. Checkmate.