How ‘Fight for 15′ will lead to ‘Smart Dining’ and fewer jobs


NOT SO SMART: Raising the minimum wage will hurt small restaurants who can’t afford labor-replacing ‘Smart Dining’ technology used by chains.

By Melissa Genson |

With President Obama’s blessing, organized labor unions have focused their ‘Fight for 15′ minimum wage movement on food service workers in large corporations.

Across the country, support has been growing.

Ironically, those big corporations are the most prepared to compensate for increased labor costs with “Smart Dining” — replacing workers with machines.

Restaurant chains are incorporating Smart Dining that will hedge against rising labor costs. Chilis, Applebees, and Buffalo Wild Wings have already begun using table tablets for many waiter tasks, as demostrated here:

Smart Dining not only replaces waiters, but also kitchen staff. The New York Times reports that Chili’s 1,200 restaurants have added computerized ovens that use conveyor belts and infrared technology–at $100,000 per oven.

Early forms of Smart Dining were advertised in 1964, before it was a cost-effective solution for increased labor costs:

Many small, local restaurants can’t afford Smart Dining technology.

Small restaurants are hit by increased food costs, including beef, shrimp, dairy, pork, poultry, eggs, fish, fruits, vegetables, chocolate and coffee. High propane, electricity, gasoline and diesel costs also are hurting restaurants already suffering from a bad-to-worse economy.

Small restaurants have been an integral part of American life. They have also been a road out of poverty for hard working immigrants and disadvantaged families for generations.

The Rosen family in Brooklyn, New York, is one such family. Like many Jewish immigrants in the early 20th century, they saved their meager wages to buy a small push cart to sell food on the street. One push cart grew into several carts, then into a restaurant, owned and operated to this day by generations of Rosens.

In Welcome to Junior’s, Marvin Rosen joined with his brother Walter to reminisce about their late father Harry Rosen. At 16, Harry had started with the first push cart that grew into a successful restaurant.

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