by Chris Haire
Ten years ago it might have seemed far-fetched that a customer could order food in a restaurant without speaking to anyone. But it's a reality now as service employers across the country—including Chili's, Chevys Fresh Mex and California Pizza Kitchen—introduce tabletop ordering devices. A few clicks on an iPad-like device and the food is on its way.He then goes on to bemoan the fact that tech advances — including self-serve soda fountains, table-top iPad "servers," and burger-flipping machines — are decimating the ranks of service industry professionals. He writes:
Technology has made these changes possible, but that's not what's driving their implementation. Steady federal and state increases to the minimum wage have forced employers in retail and service industries to rely on technology as the government makes entry-level labor more expensive.
"Efficiency" is the positive public face of these changes. Chris Sullivan —a co-founder of Outback Steakhouse who now works with MenuPad, a tablet-ordering company—explained his product to me this way: "It increases productivity, allowing servers to wait on more tables." That means tips may increase for some.But while Saltsman is correct when he says that tech is displacing F&B workers, he's full of shit when it comes to the motivations of restauranteurs.
But the flip-side of more efficiency is a 20%-25% drop in the number of waitstaff necessary to run a restaurant. Currently, a worker who earns tips can be paid below minimum wage, allowing tips to make up the difference. But the $10.10 proposal would raise the minimum tip wage to $7.07 from $2.13, a 232% spike. With roughly three million current tipped jobs in the U.S., that could amount to as many as 750,000 fewer entry-level opportunities if implemented widely.