Jack in the Box is considering replacing cashiers with automated kiosks.
“As we see the rising costs of labor, it just makes sense,” CEO Leonard Comma said on Tuesday at the ICR Conference for investors in Orlando, according to Business Insider.
This is not the first time Jack in the Box has considered such a move. The fast food chain tested kiosks several years ago, but it determined that the costs were too high.
Other fast food chains are quickly adopting automation. Panera Bread already has ordering kiosks in addition to cashiers; Wendy’s announced plans last year to add kiosks to 1,000 stores; and McDonald’s planned to add them to 2,500 stores by the end of 2017 (it has said it will not result in mass layoffs, but rather that cashiers will be switched to other jobs).
The push by the fast food industry to automate coincides with the Fight for $15 labor movement, which was started in 2012 when fast food workers went on strike in New York City to raise wages for low paid jobs in industries like fast food and home health care. The effort has paid some dividends with 18 states and 20 cities increasing their minimum wage in 2018.
Experts are divided about whether wage increases hurt or help the American labor force. After all, companies can offset wage gains with jobs cuts losses and automation.
However, two separate studies focused on Seattle, a city that raised its wages to $11 per hour in 2015 and $13 per hour in 2016, showed “diverging results,” according the New York Times. One University of California, Berkeley study that focused on restaurant workers found that wages rose 1% for every 10% increase in the minimum wage. The researchers also found “no discernible effect on employment,” according to the Times.
Meanwhile, a University of Washington study found that wages did indeed go up, but that hours were cut for some low-wage workers, and therefore there was an average net loss in overall pay.