Fast Food Robot

The Lempert Report
October 07, 2022

Phil: So, you know, we know we have a labor shortage in this country, especially lower paying jobs like at fast food restaurants. So there's this new company, Nala Robotics, who have developed a new fast food robot. It can fry chicken wings, french fries, and other foods. It can season them, put them on a plate. It's called the WingMan, and it's available to rent for $2,999. I wonder how they came up with that price? They're saying that, bottom line, it's half the price of having an employee. It's monstrous. I mean, this is not like a cute little robot that looks like a dog. This is a huge thing, huge apparatus. I'm concerned that yes, we have a labor shortage. Yes, we have this technology that can do these things like flippy, you know, the one robot that White Castle put in about a hundred of their locations to basically flip burgers. So you don't need a human being, but I think if we lose that human touch and put all the fast food restaurants, you know, robotically, I think we're gonna lose something. And I think that people are going to stop going to fast food restaurants. 

Sally: Yes, the, the human connection is something that I feel that is kind of getting sucked into the digital and the internet and the tech world in so many areas. Looking at the wages that they would save on and paying a person, you know, if they're paying $7 an hour in some places and, you know, consider that some states require minimum wage to be $15. Some states, they're paying $22 for fast food jobs, but just at $7 an hour, if somebody works 18 hours per day, 30 days a month, that costs the company, $3,780. So they're already saving money with this robot. Now whether or not consumers are going to be bothered if a robot is making their food, I don't know if they will in general. In general, I would be bothered by that myself, but I also think that there are ethical issues here as far as, you know, companies taking responsibility for the fact that we want people in jobs, We want people to be able to work and take care of themselves. 

Phil: I agree. I mean, I think one advantage to this is certainly from a food safety standpoint, there's less chance of cross contamination and things like that as long as the robot is kept clean by a human being. You know, I don't think it cleans itself, but I agree with you, I think that we, we really have to be careful, and yes, this is in the back room, this one, but how far away is it to have a robot at the front counter and one that looks a little bit better than this one taking our orders and so on? Already, we've seen a lot of McDonald's go digital where you walk in, there's a kiosk you can order from, and they just bring out your food. And I just think to your point, you know, from an ethical standpoint and a humanitarian standpoint, you know, we just can't keep on eliminating jobs. 

Phil: I know what they're gonna say. Well, nobody wants these jobs. Well, if nobody wants these jobs, you know, maybe we don't need as many McDonald's or Subways or whatever, that are around. I think the fast food industry really needs to reimagine itself. So it can, you know, pay more to employees, maybe use certain amount of robotics to ease some of those jobs so that you can have some kind of balance. But, in a way it scares me.