Ethical Concerns Arise as Virtual Cashiers from Abroad Take Orders in NYC Restaurants

NYC restaurants deploy virtual cashiers from the Philippines, sparking debate over remote work, outsourcing, and the impact on local jobs and wages in the restaurant industry.

Ayesha Mumtaz
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Ethical Concerns Arise as Virtual Cashiers from Abroad Take Orders in NYC Restaurants

Ethical Concerns Arise as Virtual Cashiers from Abroad Take Orders in NYC Restaurants

New York City restaurants are introducing virtual cashiers who take customers' orders over Zoom from their homes in the Philippines. The initiative, launched by New York-based startup Happy Cashier, has been under testing since October and is currently operating in several stores in Queens, Manhattan, and Jersey City.

The virtual cashiers handle menu inquiries and take customers' orders, but the system has faced criticism due to technical glitches and concerns over job opportunities for local workers and the low wages paid to the foreign workers. However, restaurant owners see the virtual cashier model as a way to reduce operational costs and maintain could future lower consumer prices.

The concept of virtual cashiers is not entirely new, as a Canadian food chain had previously hired workers from places like Nicaragua to take orders and payments through a video calling device. Happy Cashier's founder hopes to quickly scale up the number of virtual assistants by the end of the year, positioning his venture as the leader of a transformative trend in the restaurant industry.

Why this matters: The deployment of virtual cashiers from abroad in NYC restaurants highlights the ongoing debate about the impact of remote work and outsourcing on local job opportunities and wage standards. As businesses seek cost-saving measures, the ethical implications of relying on lower-paid foreign workers for customer-facing roles are coming under scrutiny.

The use of virtual cashiers also raises broader questions about the role of technology in the restaurant industry and its potential to displace or transform traditional workforce roles. Amazon's Just Walk Out technology, which aimed to eliminate cashier counters and long customer queues, was revealed to rely on over 1,000 outsourced workers from India to team ai train the algorithm by reviewing recorded video clips. This underscores the ongoing need for human involvement in AI development and the ethical considerations surrounding the use of remote workers in the process.

As the virtual cashier trend gains traction, industry experts and labor advocates are closely monitoring its impact on the restaurant workforce and the potential for setting new wage standards. While some restaurant owners see it as a necessary adaptation to remain competitive, others worry about the long-term consequences for local employment and the overall dining experience.

Key Takeaways

  • NYC restaurants use virtual cashiers from the Philippines via Zoom to reduce costs.
  • Virtual cashier system faces criticism over technical issues and low wages for foreign workers.
  • Restaurants see virtual cashiers as a way to lower consumer prices and remain competitive.
  • Virtual cashiers raise concerns about the impact on local job opportunities and wage standards.
  • The use of remote workers in AI development also raises ethical considerations.