Michael Cato, the COO of a Hardee’s Franchise in Maryland, says AI-driven drive-thru technology will not be replacing any crew members in their franchise. Here’s the quote, “We have no intention of cutting labor.” When listening to his interview in the Wall Street Journal, he says the technology will help because they are short-staffed. Automated order-taking will free up staff to do other things like cooking the food and maintaining quality assurance. But, what seems obvious to me and anyone else thinking for just a moment, does anyone think they’ll hire new order takers for the drive-thru if the technology works? No way.
This Hardee’s franchise is open 118 hours per week. That’s at least 2 full-time and one part-time shifts or 4 to 5 part-time shifts per day to handle the hours. A restaurant will need a minimum of 3 people to handle the labor. In Maryland, the minimum wage is about $13.00/hour and will rise to $15.00/hour by 2026 for small employers. In the video, it shows this franchise pays $15/hour for crew members and $18/hour for shift leaders. At a minimum, by not hiring humans to take orders, this franchise will save $92,000 per year in wages alone. This doesn’t take into consideration all the other factors that come with hiring a human being.
It’s too bad the WSJ story didn’t cover the cost of the AI order bot. This information would tell us if it would be more cost effective than hiring a human if there were no minimum wages. Relatively unskilled labor, like fast-food work, shouldn’t pay over $30,000 per year. It’s entry level and should only be to gain the skills needed to move to a better job.