Automation will annihilate up to 800 million jobs by 2023 – so predicts a McKinsey Global Institute study.1
Since the dawn of The Machine, humans have feared The Takeover. We have fretted and postulated that we will meet our demise by the cold, mechanical hand of The Robot and the superior, but potentially malevolent artificial intelligence (AI) that powers it.
Some fear a complete eradication of the human race via machines; others predict a type of sweeping human enslavement. And many - though they may not entertain total takeover possibility - foresee grand scale, machine-induced job loss.
But this isn’t a sleek, new 21st-century concern. With the advent of the first assembly line in Henry Ford’s 1913 factories, humans have lamented the jobs and skills lost to automation. And as technology progresses, so do our apprehensions over The Computer’s impact on our lives and livelihoods.
Dawn of the Digital Demise?
Just go online. A report suggests “that for 60% of existing US jobs, 30% or more of current work activities can be automated with available or announced technologies.”2 Headlines warn: Experts Says Automation Could Replace 40% of Jobs in 15 Years, 40% of Jobs Will Be Lost to AI, and Millions of Jobs Have Been Lost to Automation.
So. Are we automating ourselves out of work? Will we program mass unemployment with each computer we program to do a human’s job?
Well, at least not in the fast-food industry, according to an article in Entrepreneur. Though across the country, human-less kiosks have replaced front-counter order takers in quick-service restaurants, and many delivery and takeout orders are placed via digital apps, industry leaders insist jobs will not be lost. Shockingly, they claim automation will create more.
They’ll Be Back
Panera Bread introduced a massive kiosk and mobile takeover in all its 2,000 stores in 2014. Yet, employees can be found scurrying food to tables, wiping down and cleaning up furnishings and equipment, popping orders into “to-go” shelves, and of course, preparing the food.
Panera’s president, Blaine Hurst, declares, “In the early transition, we pretty dramatically increased the staff hours in the café.” Today the restaurant employs more employees on average than their non-digitized competitors.
How can this be? Because computers speed the ordering process. More orders can come in more quickly. More orders mean higher volumes of food prep, quality control, table service, and delivery needs. It means the establishment needs more employees.
McDonald’s locations that have added order kiosks are also seeing the same order escalation and subsequent staff increase. Starbucks, Shake-Shack, Burger King, and KFC also see a similar digital design.
However, the restaurant industry is currently in the throes of a significant labor shortage. The economy is booming, people are eating out more frequently, and employees are becoming more selective and transient in their commitments.
If fast-food establishments find themselves in need of workers or extra funds for training, they can order up the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) for some help.
This federal tax incentive program delivers up to $9,600 in tax credits to a business for each new employee who qualifies as defined within 14 target groups. The target groups offer a potentially untapped labor pool that the company may not have considered.
Many states also present additional tax-saving opportunities with “piggyback” credits. These may be applied for at the same time as the WOTC as they use overlapping qualifiers to obtain state tax credits. And still, other states provide other training program assistance and incentives.
Live Long and Prosper
The WOTC, and any potential state incentives, present enticing recipes for savings, talent acquisition, and training costs offset - all to help power their business in the age of automation and digitalization.
If restaurants want to take advantage of the WOTC’s many benefits, they should consider partnering with a tax professional to ensure they capture all potential credits.
- Jobs lost, jobs gained: What the future of work will mean for skills, [sic] and wages, 2019
- How Many of Your Daily Tasks Could Be Automated?, Harvard Business Review, 2015