If you have a favorite coffee shop, you probably see the same faces behind the counter daily. You may even know the names of the baristas who pour your morning joe. But what about the crew at that fast food place you sometimes drive-through for lunch? Not so many familiar faces, right? Ever wonder why?
According to industry statistics, fast-food chain employee turnover rates are at an all-time high of 130% to 150%. The rate is almost as high at fast-casual dining operations. Panera Bread, the leader in this category, reports a nearly 100% annual loss of workers.
The restaurant industry as a whole has the lowest rate of retention of any industry. Business Insider recently reported that a restaurant employing 20 individuals can expect to hire 30 each year.
So, what gives? And, what will happen to the face of fast-food restaurants in the coming years?
For starters, folks who take jobs at fast-food outfits typically see their positions as temporary. Some may have taken the job as a precursor to college. For others, when economic times are strong, they move on to higher-paying jobs with greater advancement opportunities.
What’s more, nearly all fast-food chains continually implement new technology to streamline food preparation and reduce variation from order to order. These ever-changing technologies require both training and skill development, but employees rarely receive wage increases based on their newly acquired skills and changing job requirements.
There has been talk for some time of automating the process further. In fact, reports indicate that McDonald’s will spend almost $1 billion this year for new tech in its stores. Part of this new investment will go to ordering kiosks. Many experts believe that it is only a matter of time before fast food becomes the first job sector to be ruled by robots.
Many of us cringe at the idea of robots and enhanced automation taking jobs from working Americans. But the reason these companies are implementing robots is that they can’t keep people. True, robots and automation have prompted layoffs in other sectors. But here, they are plugging a hole that fast-food restaurants need to fill.
While automation of our jobs can sound frightening, in this case, it may be a blessing. The folks who currently fill these positions are likely to move onto higher-paying positions elsewhere, where their on-going training and skill development will be rewarded. This is a win for both the employee and the business. It’s a form of creative destruction, where cutting-edge innovation and tech would eliminate existing jobs while replacing them with more technology-geared employment. The result is new jobs with new opportunities.
This is an obvious and clear-cut case of eliminating jobs that people don’t really want. If they did, the turnover rate wouldn’t be so astonishingly high. It makes sense then that innovation will come along to fill the void so the restaurants can continue to stay in business. And that, in turn, their workers will go on to higher-level positions that offer more advancement potential.
After all, computers don’t hate their jobs, and they don’t quit. So why not leave this sector of the economy to tech? In my opinion, this is an example of a place where automation is actually good for the labor force. These 130%’ers can move on and into jobs that they enjoy.