Japan’s Motoman robots can make pancakes.
So I get Google Alerts on just about fast-food chain there is. I see a lot of stuff that the average person, because they don’t have the same macabre interest, doesn’t have to or want to see. In processing all this information, I’ve learned two things: there’s an awful lot of crime that goes on in these places (especially Taco Bell, for some reason), and there’s an awful lot of disgusting things that happen in these places.
Sure, we’ve heard the stories of Burger King employees taking baths in the big kitchen sinks or Domino’s workers putting boogers in the pizza. But for some reason, I’ve found those incidents more funny than disgusting. Obviously, I have a twisted sense of humour.
But the latest situation is, even for me, a step too far. Somewhere here in Ontario, some KFC worker served up a raw chicken sandwich to a customer, the photo of which ended up on Reddit, whereupon the Huffington Post picked it up. The poor diner had no idea until he bit into it.
It must have been because I had just cooked some chicken, but seeing that photo actually made me queasy (I can’t even bring myself to replicate it here). I suppose that having bodily substances put into your food is one thing, but the texture of raw chicken and biting into it? Eeeeyugghh.
There is a feeling out there that manufacturing, after fleeing North America for decades to the likes of China, may finally be starting to return to our shores as robotics become better and cheaper. If so, how much longer till those same economic forces start to transform the fast-food industry?
I’ve been hoping and praying that robots will replace lowly paid unskilled labourers who don’t care about their jobs for a while now. Those are, after all, the types of employees who engage in such sick jokes. There’s no reason why machines can’t replace them. They can take our orders, cook our food and deliver it to us, all without the threat of boogers, baths or raw chicken. We have the technology.
Fortunately, some early pioneers - like the fully automated restaurant in Germany - are trying. But how long before some larger chain sees the benefit, both from operations and public relations standpoints, of converting to an automated workforce?