It has been a dangerous time for minimum wage waiters and bartenders. While on one hand, never in the history of the US has there been more "food and eating place" workers, and soaring with every month - if only in the BLS' in house statistical models to compensate for the manufacturing recession the US finds itself in...
... on the other hand, their corporate employers, alarmed by the recent spread of minimum wage hikes have been taking measures such as these:
the McCafe Coffee Kiosk (which is basically a self-serve coffee machine for the cheap price of $2.99)...
... The McRobot
... And the McLinecook.
But the war of robot vs unskilled-worker-demanding-a-pay-raise, which the former had been expected to win by complete anihiliation of the latter hit a snag when actual robot waiters were employed, pardon, deployed in China leading to unintended consequences.
Out of three Guangzhou restaurants that used robots to serve customers, two have closed and the third has fired its robot waiters, the Workers' Daily has reported (We couldn't find a Chinese Robot Daily yet).
According to the Chinese media, customers flocked to the Heweilai Restaurant chain in the southern Chinese city when it introduced robots last year, but the chain has stopped using the machines for a number of reasons.
A staff member said the robots couldn't effectively handle soup dishes, often malfunctioned, and had to follow a fixed route that sometimes resulted in clashes. A customer also said the robots were unable to do tasks such as topping up water or placing a dish on the table.
Another restaurant in Guangzhou's Baiyun District said robots were used only because of a high turnover of waiters and waitresses.
"The robots weren't able to carry soup or other food steady and they would frequently break down. The boss has decided never to use them again," said one employee.
The limitations of the technology were clear, says another. They added: "They can't take orders or pour hot water for customers."
However, the report said robots were mainly used to attract attention and don't help reduce human resource costs.
Zhang Yun, a vice president at the Guangdong University of Technology, said robots will be widely used within the manufacturing industry in the future, as many tasks are repetitive, but further development is needed before robots are able to work effectively in the service sector.
For now, it appears, China's minimum wage workers, and it has a few hundred million of those, will not be phased out just yet.
In the US, however, it's a different matter. Remember Boston Dynamics' Atlas? The 5' 9" tall, 180 lbs robot is perfectly suited to replace any number of fast food employees. All it needs is the McDonalds retention letter and the next stage in the war of (minimum paid) man against robot may commence.