The minimum wage needs to be raised, the minimum wage should be tied to inflation, and every jurisdiction, whether it be city, county, state or country, should be free to set the minimum wage at whatever level they deem necessary with the highest of the four taking precedence.
Now, there will be a counter-argument that says that with higher wages comes an accelerated rollout of technological innovations that is supposedly going to eliminate minimum wage jobs in the food service or retail sectors of the economy. Well, as someone who is a staunch supporter of a higher minimum wage, I can’t wait!
Now, I am not cheering for the elimination of jobs through increased technology, I’m just cheering for new technology because it won’t eliminate jobs, but it will improve the customer’s experience, increase productivity, and incite job growth. Just the other day, in a brief respite from endless Olive Garden pasta, I found myself at McDonald’s, one that had just installed new self-service kiosks. Now, many who believe in a higher minimum wage would have turned and walked out on principle, but not me. I used it and I loved it!
The kiosk was easy to use and I felt empowered to take as long as I need to decide, order, and pay. Without the kiosk, I usually feel rushed to decide on an order, how I want it to be made, how I want to pay, and more importantly, how much I paid. When I used the kiosk it was just me with the machine. I felt a sense of freedom to add and subtract items and toppings until my heart’s-and-wallet’s content. I was able to inspect my order and make sure everything was correct. I liked using it and will use it again, even while fighting for a higher minimum wage.
Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve used a kiosk and technology to order food. At Olive Garden, Chili’s and many other restaurants, they have placed Ziosks at their tables. A Ziosk is a tablet designed for restaurant patrons to order food, pay and entertain themselves at the table. Like the McDonald’s kiosk, I love using it. I am able to pay, tip and leave at my own convenience, not at the will of the waitstaff.
With the Ziosk and other innovative technology, customers are in control of their experience at restaurants. This is a repetition of the phenomenon that took place when ATMs were introduced. As consumer finance guru Clark Howard said on his popular radio show, ATMs were feared to eliminate tellers and destroy the banking industry. It didn’t. With more ATMs to handle simple transactions, tellers and bankers were more focused on providing great service to customers, and today you can still become a bank teller, 50 years after the introduction of the ATM in 1967.
Though that doesn’t mean staff is eliminated, they are reorganized into roles that cater more to the patron and not the payment. From a consumer standpoint, I have seen just as much staff before the Ziosks and kiosks as I did after. The difference is now servers and staff are more focused on providing a better experience, which will drive more people into the restaurants, which will fuel expansion, which creates jobs, and so on and so forth. The economy improves because of these technological innovations. Going back to Clark Howard and the ATMs, once ATMs were introduced, banks were able to operate on smaller pieces of land and now you can find a bank on nearly every commercial street in the country. If the expansion of kiosks continues, there will be no doubt that the restaurant will follow the path of the bank.
Also, there’s no mandate that higher wages will require the installation of self-service kiosks in the restaurant. In fact, restaurants might not even have to build or pay for these kiosks at all, we have already these kiosks in our pockets: our smartphones! Many quick-service restaurants and coffee shops, like Burger King, Taco Bell, Starbucks and Chick-fil-a have smartphone apps that allow you to place and pay for orders from anywhere and have your meal ready at the restaurant. I only use the app to order Chick-fil-a, it saves me time, increases the company’s ability to sell and is a pleasant experience, and there was no need for a higher minimum wage to mandate such a change.
Raising the minimum wage doesn’t mean you have to be against new technology. In fact, you can welcome both higher wages and high-tech. The improvements to service and quality that come with modern technology will not displace jobs, it will readjust those jobs and fuel the creation of more jobs. A win-win for everyone: customers, workers, and owners.