American fast casual restaurant Panera Bread recently announced plans to create 10,000 new delivery and retail jobs by the end of 2017, driven by a surprising catalyst: Automation.
The core impetus for the hiring, as noted in a Panera Bread press release, is the expansion of the company's food delivery service. As noted in the release, Panera Bread will be adding delivery to some 35% to 40% of its cafes by the end of the year, prompting the need for more workers in the cafe to prepare the deliveries, along with more delivery drivers.
"Panera is doing for delivery what we did for quick service - creating an elevated guest experience end-to-end," Ron Shaich, Panera founder, chairman and CEO, said in the release. "In many places across the country, all that's available for delivery is pizza or Chinese food. We're closing the gap in delivery alternatives and creating a way for people to have more options for real food delivered to their homes and workplaces."
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As noted by Business Insider, the increase in delivery will be driven by the company's increased reliance on automation. In some Panera locations, digital ordering kiosks have popped up to help offset customer traffic.
Panera first introduced the kiosks in 2015 as a means of replacing some cashiers in the cafes. Visually speaking, the kiosks are typically mounted touch-screen tablets that display everything about the menu from price to nutritional information, and allow users to make a purchase and pay with a credit card without having to talk to a store employee.
The delivery service offered by Panera makes use of the company's digital and mobile payment platforms, and integrates with its MyPanera rewards program. The company is also rolling out a new order tracking system to improve its delivery service, the release said.
"The guest can see expected arrival time, follow the delivery's progress on a map, see a picture of and be introduced to their driver, and receive a notification when their driver is arriving," the release said.
The biggest fear mounting around the rise of automation and artificial intelligence is the potential impact it will have on jobs. Some are worried that these technologies will destroy more jobs than they can create, but Panera Bread is one example of automation leading to the formation of more jobs in a complementary role.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- Panera Bread recently announced plans to hire 10,000 new workers due to an increase in its delivery services.
- Panera Bread's delivery growth has coincided with its investments in automation, specifically automated ordering kiosks that could replace human cashiers.
- The biggest fear around automation is that it will take jobs away, but Panera Bread is one example of automation leading to more jobs.
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Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.