Bennigan's CEO on replacing servers with robots

Bennigan's CEO Paul Mangiamele on the debate over $15 per hour minimum wage.

Bennigan's CEO: Replacing Employees With Robots is the Wrong Direction

With more and more discussion in the restaurant industry of shifting to robots or tablets in response to the minimum wage debate, Bennigan's CEO Paul Mangiamele is speaking out on the downsides of automation. Mangiamele views automation as hurting a restaurant’s relationship with its customers.

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“I have been on record saying that I will never abdicate from the service connection that our servers, our people, provide to our guests by going to a tablet. I’ve never seen a tablet talk about our menu, I’ve never seen a tablet do a refill. I think that’s the wrong direction, especially for those in my category which is casual dining,” Mangiamele told the FOX Business Network’s Stuart Varney.

Mangiamele then weighed in on the importance of the industries’ employees and left room for compromise over potentially raising the minimum wage gradually over time.

“I think anyone who puts forth a notion that we, the industry, don’t care about our people that make the brands come alive is ludicrous. But I think there needs to be a very calm, very deliberate, very intelligent conversation about how to take the wage and increase it over time.”

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Mangiamele explained that he viewed some automation as appropriate to make the restaurant chain’s work flow more efficient.

“We are looking at automation as I said before. The automation really is in back of the house to decrease the ticket time.”

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On the other hand, Mangiamele said, “But, in terms of replacing people by robots, I think that’s way out there and it really should be a discussion about what’s the quid pro quo. If the unions and the governments of the states want to have this debate on higher wage, then we should also have a discussion about lower corporate taxes or some incentives.”

Mangiamele then pointed out the potential drawbacks of a minimum wage hike.

“If the smaller and more fragile businesses go out of business, it eliminates all jobs and who’s the beneficiary of that? The unions who get their dues? Doesn’t make any sense to me.”

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