Automated Restaurants Are Real, but What Do They Mean for American Jobs?

automated restaurant

In the last several years, high-tech inventions that once existed only in science-fiction became all too real. You can now buy an electric car that also drives itself (sometimes). In some places, you can even shop online and have your goods delivered by drone. These automated inventions are driven by artificial intelligence and careful engineering, and they’re popping up everywhere.

Recently, the restaurant industry began to embrace automation and started streamlining their purchasing experiences. In some chain restaurants, cashiers are nowhere to be found and all transactions are done on kiosks, while your food is still cooked and handed to you by a person.

At a new restaurant concept called Eatsa, that handing-off process is eliminated, too. While the San Francisco and New York-based vegetarian chain still employs cooks and a couple of people to make sure customers are happy, you never have to talk to anyone during your time in their locations. You order by tablet, pick up from a designated drawer, and stuff your face.

CBS recently visited Eatsa in San Fransisco to see how their concept worked. What they found could be good for you, the consumer, but it could foreshadow a worrisome trend in the restaurant industry.

Automats are nothing new, as New York previously had dozens of them scattered around the city. (Their food was also pretty bland.) Yet with Eatsa and other chains pushing towards replacing some of their staff with kiosks, many low-skill jobs could be in jeopardy, which would gravely impact lower- and middle-class Americans.

The issue of disappearing fast-food jobs and a push towards automation could be remedied with a basic universal income or other social programs for displaced workers. Unfortunately, with the incoming administration, the likeliness of that happening as more jobs become automated is highly unlikely.