Minimum Wage

Lessons in Wendy's New Push for Self-Service Kiosks

Market pressures were already making wages more competitive.


Credit: Random Retail / photo on flickr

Wendy's is joining the restaurant push toward automation in some customer service. The chain announced this week that it will be making self-service kiosks available to all its (primarily franchise-owned) 6,000 stores later this year. It will be up to individual franchises to decide whether to use them.

Drastic increases to minimum wages are notably a factor. Investor's Business Daily points out the chain separately has more than 200 restaurants in California and New York. Stores actually owned by Wendy's instead of franchises have seen wage inflation of between five to six percent so far. Obviously when the $15 minimum wage takes off in those two states, there will be much more.

There's another factor in the wage inflation, though, that is also contributing and worth paying attention to. Wendy's President Todd Penegor said that a need to offer more competitive wages "to access good labor" was also a contributing factor. That is to say, competitive market forces were already pushing wages for Wendy's employees upwards.

It's easy to imagine this information as a defense of raising minimum wages. Automation of these tasks might have been coming down the line anyway. In all likelihood the days were numbered for a lot of these jobs regardless of what the minimum wage might be. I've also seen comments (in social media) that even if this move eliminates thousands of jobs, that's a better outcome than to have people slaving away in occupations that can't support them financially.

But, that argument presents a blinkered, weirdly old-fashioned view of the job market as though people sit around in whatever job they manage to land for the rest of their lives, like serfs working a field. That Wendy's was facing economic market pressure that might have made it a struggle to hang on to qualified employees indicates that fast food jobs aren't the dead ends some are trying to insist. One argument against jacking up the minimum wage has been that one of the great values of these low-skill, low-paying jobs is to usher people into the marketplace. People aren't supposed to be living their lives working them. This market competition factor indicates that when Wendy's employees improve their skills, that gives them leverage to either get more money or move somewhere else and make more money.

But when those low-level jobs are eliminated, poor, unskilled laborers lose their entry points into the job market entirely. They won't even get the opportunity to learn the skills that will help them compete for better jobs. And while this technological replacement may have come into play naturally due to market forces, deliberately causing it to happen will cause more immediate harms that don't have easy solutions. 

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  1. I certainly hope those kiosks are getting a living wage.

    1. No kiosk should be forced to work on less than 110 VAC.

  2. Scott didn’t apologize enough for the gays in this article.



      1. Well, maybe they could just add a Max Headroom-like program that resembles Milo Yiannopolis to the kiosks. That would cover some of the grievance checklist, right?

        1. I liked that show. Then again I was like fifteen years old or something, so there is that.

          1. It encouraged stuttering in America’s youth, making our nation vulnerable to Communism.

            1. I… I… I… don’t know what to say to that.

              1. AH-HA!

                1. OK, so that led down the youtube hole to this gem starring Max Headroom AND William Shatner

                  80’s overload

                  1. I closed it at “Give it to education.”

          2. Didn’t he wear his hair in cornrows?

            1. Racial appropriation!

              1. Or is it cultural?

            2. It was more like a chunky slicked-back.

              1. Get a load of the Max Headroom aficionado over here.

      2. Now what do you suppose that entails?

        1. Ambiguous signs on the bathroom doors?

          1. Like this?

            1. Looks like that guy’s got a boner.

              That must be the Rape-Room.

        2. They rape little girls in the girl’s kiosk. Duh.

          “Oh, you wanted a Frosty, huh? A Frosty. How about I put my big MAN PENIS in it?!?”

          /crying Statue of Liberty

          1. I thought that was already how it works at Wendy’s.

            1. That’s how it works in my van.

            2. No, no… you’re thinking of the baked potatoes.

              1. Mmmm, “butter.”

          2. “Can you fit your whole penis in this little tiny cup?”

            1. “If I coil my MAN PANIS around I can!”


        1. I don’t know why, but I read that as “Shackleford is a terrible mother and his Singer dresses him funny.’

          I was going to ask, How did you know Shackleford was into sewing?

          I haven’t started drinking yet, I swear.

          1. “Scott Shackleford Left Me In A Hot Car” commenter John tells the NY Post

            1. *eyes liquor cabinet*

              rum or whiskey… rum or whiskey…

              1. Why not both?

                Chatham Artillery Punch

                ??? oz lemon juice
                1 oz Demerara syrup
                1 oz bourbon or rye
                1 oz Cognac
                1 oz dark Jamaican rum
                2?3 oz Champagne

                Shake all ingredients (except the Champagne) with ice. Pour, with ice, into serving glass. Add Champagne to top up the glass. Adjust sweetness as needed. Grate nutmeg over the top.

    2. I would agree that it’s surprisingly free of the ambiguous “When the CRA was written(,) to include equality for robots was laughably unquestionable.”-type statements that plague his other articles.

  3. No experience? No job.

    No job? No experience.

    Reminds me of this book I read about some guys in WWII.

    1. Valley of the Dolls?

      1. I said “guys.”

        1. Hitler?

          I was told the answer to such questions is always “Hitler”.

          1. In this case, it was a trick question. Everybody knows that sarcasmic has never read a book.

            1. Bull. Shit. I’ve read every Dr. Seuss. Out loud. Top that!

              1. One fish, two fish, Red fish, Jew fish?

                1. “Luke Luck likes lakes.
                  Luke’s duck likes lakes.
                  Luke Luck licks lakes.
                  Luck’s duck licks lakes.”


    2. WWII? Dude, For Whom The Taco Bell Tolls was about the Spanish Civil War, not WWII.

  4. But, that argument presents a blinkered, weirdly old-fashioned view of the job market as though people sit around in whatever job they manage to land for the rest of their lives, like serfs working a field.

    Get thee out in the job market, Scott, especially the blue collar union trades, and you’ll be shocked at how many people desire this very situation for themselves.

    1. I actually came away with the impression that Scott hasn’t worked very many fast-food gigs. Sure there are plenty there to work their way up the ladder but if it was even half I’d be astounded.

      Presumably, the whole reason these people are demanding living wages is because they’ve been fully employable since they were teens and their ‘life’ has caught up and surpassed their occupational progression. Or are we predominantly demanding living wages for 15-18 yr. olds who are living on their own?

      1. I actually worked between high school and college … at a Wendy’s. Wanna hear how their chili gets made?

        1. Frozen veggie mix plus ground-up unsold hamburger patties, according to a buddy of mine who also worked there (and still eats there on occasion).

          1. I worked at a Pizza Hut for two weeks in the 80s–didn’t see anything gross–and I still won’t eat there.

        2. I worked at a food service kiosk at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, you can’t shock me anymore.

          1. Memorial Stadium? You must be oooooold.

            Section 34 FTW.

            1. Not Bill Hagy old. Geez

              1. Gimme an O.

                No, wait, you’re a dude. Never mind.

        3. Is this the part where the gay gets added to the story?

          1. I’m glad someone else broached the topic. I was gonna say that if the story doesn’t involve artisanal mayo, Mexicans and ass-sex, I’ll be disappointed.

            If it does, I’d vote Shackford for President.

            1. artisanal mayo, Mexicans and ass-sex

              It’s Wendy’s. At least two of those are a given.

        4. Wanna hear how their chili gets made?

          Something about “special sauce.”

        5. No, not the chili! That was the one thing I used to eat there.

  5. You really didn’t think that those EVULLL KKKOorporations you hate so much were just going to give up their profits to pay employees more, did you? Now, instead of 10 employees working a shift making $12 on average, you have 7 making $17 and 3 on the unemployment line. And guess what, those 3 that got canned probably needed to work at Wendy’s more than the 7 who stayed. They’ve got less experience, education, skills, and ambition.

    1. Clearly the solution is to take the 7 who stayed (in your scenario) and promote them to the corporate executive level. Then, based on their experience, the other 3 would be promoted to store management (instead of being canned). Then, Wendy’s can higher 15 more people off the street to work the shift at $17/hr.

      If only these evil corporations would see the beauty in that and the opportunity to help people out.

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    1. But are they hot and juicy and automated?

    2. Can she be replaced by a machine that’s less expensive?

    3. Are these jobs Americans won’t take?

    4. Do you have anything available on the dollar menu?

    5. Karinka’s account still not suspended? Does Reason get a percentage? If so, what does that make them?

      1. Now you understand all the stories opposed to sex trafficking laws.

  7. Wow – never saw this coming.

  8. “… even if this move eliminates thousands of jobs, that’s a better outcome than to have people slaving away in occupations that can’t support them financially.”

    I agree with them completely. We need to put slavery to an end. We should ensure that every one of these people (especially those who would rather have their job eliminated) has a choice about whether or not they will continue to work at a job that pays them less than they need. The 30 year-old trying to feed a wife and four kids shouldn’t be forced to work at a job that doesn’t pay them enough. He should be allowed to try to find a job somewhere else that would pay more. Meanwhile, the high school kid who just needs enough money to buy gas and beer should be allowed to continue working there for a wage that he considers reasonable.

    1. I’ve seen those people – if you told them hiking the minimum wage to $15 an hour would cause leprosy in the poor they’d just tell you of the beneficial multiplier effects of building hospitals for poor people with leprosy. They really and truly don’t give a shit about poor people, it’s just a beneficial side-effect of advocating for the destruction of capitalism and the wealth inequities capitalism creates (by creating wealth in the first place.) If we can’t make everybody equally rich, we by God will make them all equally poor. However unfair it is that I don’t have something someone else has, it’s a thousand times more unfair they have something I don’t.

      1. I’d say half of the lobbying is coming from unions, which usually have contracts that tie their pay to a multiple of the minimum wage.

  9. Did anyone else see a story about the 15 year old kid who came up with a medical supplies vending machine? There was something on CNN a couple days ago. Basically, the money quote from the kid was something along the lines of “it would cost too much to pay someone minimum wage to stand around for a couple hours in a booth so we decided to go with a vending machine”.

    1. I’m surprised it’s legal to sell medical supplies from a vending machine.

      1. Wait a few weeks.

      2. Reminds me of a Dilbert strip years ago:

        “We fired the nurse. Aspirin and tourniquets are available in the snack machine.”

    2. Great, now we just need vending machines for guns and ammo, then we can get our system and/or bioshock on.

  10. “And while this technological replacement may have come into play naturally due to market forces, deliberately causing it to happen will cause more immediate harms that don’t have easy solutions. ”

    This. If Wendy’s finds it can’t hire qualified people at $9/hr without a high minimum wage, that means that its potential workers must have other attractive options, so automation won’t cause unemployment — a good scenario. But if Wendy’s can’t hire people at $9 because the law forbids it and switches to automation even though there are unemployed workers who have no other good options and would welcome the $9/job, that’s a government-caused disaster for those unemployed people.

    1. Just remember, thanks to the minimum wage, deflation is a scary thing.

      1. Man, i hate when i can afford more stuff. HATE it.

        1. Nobody needs more stuff.

  11. Uh oh… Shitty burger house economic collapse alert! Whoop!! Whoop!! Why do libruls hate the Poors so much? Since we’re into applying an anecdote to support our macroeconomic pet theories, I’ll do the same.

    I have a dear friend and absolutely wonderful person who has been delivering pizza for the last 10 years. It’s not exactly a minimum wage job as she makes something around the minimum plus tips. But she was affected by the change and now makes more for her base salary. I asked her if she knew about Frederick Hayek and Ayn Rand and did she fear that she would be tossed into unemployment in a city with a 4.5% unemployment rate? No… I think she was too busy applying the extra money she earned towards a Burning Man ticket. Let’s hope she meets up Grover Norquist who will set her straight. Fingers crossed.

    1. Please don’t feed the troll.

    2. Pics?

    3. Being a pizza delivery gal, she probably is cool with the fact that she won’t have to deal with any other drivers the shop may have hired.

    4. Man, it’s like AmSoc was trying to write a textbook example of That Which Is Seen and That Which is Not Seen. “Effects of the minimum wage increase? Well, I have more dollars in my pocket, so clearly that must be the complete and total sum of the effects!”

    5. Cool story, bro. Maybe you and your friend can deliver some pizzas to Puerto Rico and American Samoa where millions of people lost their jobs after the federal minimum wage was extended to them. Thanks in advance.

  12. I’m 30 now, and when I was 15 and ON minimum wage, I wrote my governor to veto a minimum wage increase. My job was a stepping stone and I wouldn’t be where I am now if not for that first job. Cut away the stepping stone and you never advance.

    See the inner cities

  13. Ban automation. Problem solved. Next.

    This is too easy.


  14. I’ll never eat at Wendy’s again.

    Unless I’m hungry and I don’t have much time to eat and there’s one nearby.

  15. Ugh, I hope not. Wendy’s has always had great customer service people.
    Jack-in-the-Box or McDonald’s getting a kiosk would be an upgrade.

    1. Jack-in-the-Box used to have kiosks, or at least the one here did. It went away sometime last year.

  16. The way I see it, one less person to fuck up my order.

    Now let’s see how fast we can get the entire process automated.

    1. You’re goddamn right. I would much rather deal with an ATM than a bank teller. Twice as fast, more accurate, zero attitude.

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