Leonard Comma, the CEO of Jack in the Box, indicated that the fast food chain will reconsider replacing human cashiers with machines like self-service kiosks as California gradually increases its minimum wage over the next four years, according to Business Insider. “As we see the rising costs of labor, it just makes sense,” he reportedly said on Tuesday at the ICR Conference in Florida.
Comma claims that previous tests of automated kiosks at certain Jack in the Box locations, which began in 2006, resulted in greater efficiency and higher checks on average. The installation costs just weren’t worth it at the time. However, California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a law in 2016 that will raise the state’s minimum wage incrementally each year to $15 by 2022. And California is just a part of a nation-wide wave of minimum wage reforms—17 other states, including New York, Michigan, and Washington, are also seeing increases early this year.
Automation is a familiar threat from executives unhappy with rising labor costs. Andrew Puzder, the CEO of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s who was briefly Trump’s pick for labor secretary, told Business Insider in 2016 that he would be interested in developing an employee-free restaurant if minimum wages keep rising. “[Robots are] always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case,” he told reporters.
Wendy’s, Caliburger, and various fast food chains have been putting kiosks to work, though not all of them have presented the machines as replacements for people. For example, McDonald’s rolled out kiosks in 2,500 locations in 2017, but it has long held that its growing use of automation will result in cashiers being reassigned to other jobs, rather than being laid off.