Fast-food workers to strike as robots loom

27 Aug

BreakTimeSolutions-FrenchFryMachFast-food workers across the United States are being urged to strike on Thursday in an effort to drum up support for higher wages. The unrest has been simmering for some time now, with many employees unable to make ends meet on their painfully low wages.

The cause is noble, but as the old saying goes: the workers may want to be careful about what they wish for. They may not get the raises they’re after, but they may indeed end up out of work. Simply put: the robots are coming.

I’ve written before about robotic vending machines that can make hot dogs and pizza automatically, cheaply and quickly. Add French fries to that list.

Belgium-based BreakTime Solutions is making waves in Europe with a new machine that cooks up fries, then dispenses them along with a dipping sauce of choice – ketchup or mayo – in mere minutes, all for just a couple of bucks. Check out the video on the company’s website.

And the Belgian company is just the latest to join the fun. Even Canada’s McCain has been experimenting with similar machines:

Combined with some of the more roboticized dining experiments happening around the world – Nuremburg, Germany and Harbin, China are just two examples – it’s clear what direction low-paid, low-skilled restaurant jobs are heading.

Fast-food workers in the United States may want to worry more about whether they’re going to have jobs a few years from now, rather than whether that work is going to pay enough.


Posted by on August 27, 2013 in food, robots


4 responses to “Fast-food workers to strike as robots loom

  1. Marc Venot

    August 27, 2013 at 12:25 am

    In Vancouver they are multiplying food trucks (lorries) and carts so I guess this industry is still able to challenge the robots?

  2. Kevin OConnor

    August 27, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    Robots are going to hit a lot more than just fast food joints.
    I have to admit I am glad I am retired (disability) because , like you , I can plainly see the robots are coming , and I am wondering what jobs will be left for most of us ? Add to that the ever increasing sophistication of artificial intellgience , and it isn’t just the grunt labour guys that need to be panicking here. It’s pretty much everyone.

    I forsee a star wars like universe, where a small family runs a farm by commanding a herd of robots who do the actual work. They give the orders, and they do the repairs, and that’s pretty much all that’s left for them to do. We’re all going to be running our small businesses by commanding and repairing robots, and our house holds by commanding robots that cook and clean and otherwise keep costs down.

    No more exporting jobs to India. Those jobs are coming back. But the robots are getting them , not us.

    • Peter Nowak

      August 27, 2013 at 6:09 pm

      I was saying the exact same thing to my dental hygienist today (I’m guessing her job is safe for now because it requires the sort of extreme and sensitive precision that robots won’t be capable of for some time). I’m optimistic, though, because every step toward automation has forced us to think up new, better jobs.

  3. Geoff

    August 27, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    Robot future: dystopia, or utopia… or both!

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