Wendy’s fast food restaurant chain says it will begin offering self-serve kiosks at its 6,000-plus locations across America, making them available to costumers by the end of 2016.
The fast food giant’s decision to move toward automation comes just as “Fight for $15”–a progressive protest movement, pushing minimum wage hikes–is applying pressure on state governments to raise wages for low-skilled fast food workers.
Last August, Wendy’s CFO Todd Penegor told investors that mandated wage hikes will cause his company to pursue other innovative avenues that could lead to fewer jobs for low-skill workers.
“We continue to look at initiatives and how we work to offset any impacts of future wage inflation through technology initiatives, whether that’s customer self-order kiosks, whether that’s automating more in the back of the house in the restaurant,” Penegor said, adding that “you’ll see a lot more coming on that front later this year from us.”
On the same conference call, Wendy’s CEO Emil Brolick said that individual Wendy’s franchises “will likely look at the opportunity to reduce overall staff, look at the opportunity to certainly reduce hours and any other cost reduction opportunities, not just price.”
Indeed, Wendy’s officials told Investor’s Business Daily that it would be up to individual franchisees to decide whether they will offer the self-serve kiosks.
Penegor says several franchises are being squeezed by wage inflation. California’s 250-plus franchise-owned Wendy’s are struggling with the state’s $10 minimum wage, which will soon spike to $15. Franchise-operated Wendy’s restaurants in New York–where minimum wage is $15–can’t compensate for that state’s crushing wage increase.
“You know there are some people out there who naively say that these wages can simply be passed along in terms of price increases,” Brolick said last August. “I don’t think that the average franchisee believes that.”