The Chain Gang

Carl’s Jr. CEO Andy Puzder Says He’d Rather Automate Restaurants Than Pay Workers Higher Wages

Controversial. Photo: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times

No one can accuse Andy Puzder, the CEO of Carl’s Jr. and its twin Hardee’s, of losing too much sleep over the livelihood of his 20,000 employees: If his latest scheme ever becomes reality, his company won’t have “employees” at all, per se. The Obamacare-hating head of America’s probably most sexist chain recently took a trip to Eatsa, the new automat-style restaurant people have raved about in San Francisco, and left realizing he’d found how he can avoid paying workers higher minimum wages. As he confides to Business Insider this week, Carl’s new goal is creating restaurants where “you order on a kiosk, you pay with a credit or debit card, your order pops up, and you never see a person.”

While Puzder has blamed low-paid workers for a variety of things, he tells the publication there’s nothing bad about robots: “They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.” (He clearly didn’t see Ex Machina.) Also, automation will only be more win-win as time goes on, he says, because “Millennials like not seeing people.” He’s observed lines of “young people” waiting for kiosks while a worker stands inert behind the register, which does seemingly play right into his dystopian restaurant future.

At least Business Insider reports his employee-free restaurant remains fantasy for now — Hardee’s is in the middle of a major expansion in the Northeast, and Puzder isn’t batting a thousand as a visionary. Still, he’s right about a trend toward automating the food and hospitality industries, and he sounds pretty committed to making it happen: “This is the problem with Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton, and progressives who push very hard to raise the minimum wage,” he explains, adding almost as a quasi-threat: “Does it really help if Sally makes $3 more an hour if Suzie has no job?”


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