Shake Shack, a relatively small fast-food chain with stores mainly in urban areas, is dipping its toe into automation. A Shake Shack store in Manhattan has dispensed with cashiers and has instead deployed kiosks where one can order a meal. One can also order food via a smartphone app. The store will not accept cash, only credit or debit card. When the food is ready, a text message is sent to the customer who picks it up at the counter.

A year ago Shake Shack was dead set against automation

As Hot Air reported, Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer was dead set against automated ordering just a year ago.

The theory was that a human touch enhanced the food ordering experience that a handheld device or a kiosk could not replicate.

What changed?

No one is coming right out and saying it, but the $15 an hour minimum wage is being instituted in the main urban areas such as New York, so it now makes more economic sense to start cutting Labor Costs. Ordering kiosks not only do not require a salary, but they never show up to work late and are never surly to customers. Cashless kiosks also cut down on crime.

However, Shake Shack envisions roughly doubling its kitchen staff on the theory that not standing in line will make ordering food there more desirable. Panera Bread found that to be the case when it instituted automated ordering.

The bakery chain wound up adding 1,700 kitchen staff as sales started to increase.

The problem with that theory is that the competitive advantage of not having lines, such as it is, will likely disappear in short order as more eateries adopt automated ordering. McDonald's, a Fast Food Chain that dwarfs Shake Shack in the number of stores it has, is moving in that direction.

Wendys is following suit by setting up such systems in a thousand of its stores in 2017.

On the other hand, the more fast food places institute automated ordering, the more people may eschew cooking dinner and instead order something on their smartphones for a later pickup. Fast food becomes warp speed food, something that could prove to be an even better time saver than it is currently.

One problem with this scenario is that while the fare being offered at such places as McDonald's may be tasty, it is not particularly healthy. Where is someone who wants a balanced diet for him or herself and their family and doesn’t want to cook to go? Perhaps that group of people will become an underserved market that someone can move to fill. Just a thought to consider.