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Pizza Hut Just Hired a Robot Waiter. Should You be Concerned?

May 26, 2016
by Jamie Cattanach
Staff Writer
pepper the robot

“Veggie Lover’s or Super Supreme?”

“Would you like to add breadsticks to your order?”

Next time you have these interactions at Pizza Hut, you just might be chatting with a robot — by which I mean an actual, mechanized humanoid machine, not a really bored college student.

SoftBank is bringing its (admittedly adorable) humanoid bot, Pepper, to Asian Pizza Hut storefronts by the end of 2016. Using MasterCard’s MasterPass technology, Pepper will be able to process customers’ full orders, from greeting to checkout.

What’s more, Pepper will provide customized recommendations and remind patrons about ongoing specials and deals. The robot’s even got human-like hand gestures and a friendly intonation to help make the whole interaction a little less creepy.

Maybe.

Robot Waiters are the Future

Pizza Hut is by no means the only company outsourcing its minimum-wage jobs to technology.

Last month, China’s Taste and Aroma restaurant unveiled a fleet of robot waiters — although they’re much less high-tech than Pepper, only carrying predefined orders along set paths.

Hotels in Japan and Belgium employ robotic staff, too, and TEDxSydney welcomed a tiny robot usher to the famous Opera House.

And this kind of technological outsourcing isn’t just happening abroad.

You’re probably already familiar with the new(ish) self-checkout lanes in many American grocery stores. And in response to recent minimum wage hikes, Wendy’s and McDonald’s are planning to install labor-reducing, self-serve kiosks in U.S. locations.

Ex-McDonald’s CEO Edward Rensi says the new minimum wage makes a robot fast-food takeover inevitable, predicting a “job loss like you can’t believe.”

After all, it’s simple math: Although a robot’s one-time setup expense may be high, it’s quickly more cost-effective than paying a flesh-and-blood human being $15 per hour.

Plus, robots are infinitely more reliable than people. They never wake up with a headache and arrive late to work, and they don’t require health care, time off or incentives to do the best job they can.  

Will Robots Take Your Job?

Whether or not you’d be comfortable giving your order to a humanoid automaton, we’re willing to bet you’re not comfortable handing over your job to one.

Servers at nice restaurants might be safe for a little while longer. Some Chinese robot waitstaff have shown an unfortunate tendency to deliver patrons’ orders… straight into their laps. Not exactly service with a smile.

But with big-name companies making concrete plans to roll out automation technology this year, it’s not unreasonable for fast-food workers to start getting concerned about their jobs.

Fortunately, you probably didn’t want to sling fries for the rest of your life anyway — minimum-wage food industry jobs tend to be pretty boring and thankless, in general.

Prepare for the Robot Revolution

If you’re looking for ways to prepare for the coming robot takeover, here are some resources for you to consider.

It might be time to go back to school, which can be expensive. Check out these 100 college scholarships to help you get educated on the cheap (or free) — and don’t forget that even prestigious schools might offer generous need-based aid.

If you really don’t like the idea of a traditional, four-year degree, check out these six alternative certifications with gainful prospects.

Or, skip the schooling entirely and strike out on your own. Here’s our guide to getting your dream freelance business off the ground.

And even if none of these options are on the table for you right now, you can look into other high-paying retail jobs. Luckily, it looks like they’re still working out some pretty major kinks on robotic clothes-folding technology.

Your Turn: Are you prepared for the coming robot takeover? What other jobs are threatened by automation?

Jamie Cattanach (@jamiecattanach) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Her creative writing has been featured in DMQ Review, Sweet: A Literary Confection and elsewhere. She’s really glad that robots can’t write good articles or poetry… yet.

by Jamie Cattanach
Contributor for The Penny Hoarder

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