I initially felt sorry for these sectors. Then, on reflection, I thought about how these employees have been pushing me towards these self service points every time I visited their place of employment. And here we are now. Expecting to dish out sympathy, because they have be replaced by artificial intelligence.
Okay, I’m not that heartless. I do care. As a father of three teenagers, all at various points of secondary and further education. They are trying to work out where they will fit in to the employment world. Which profession should they choose? There was a time when manufacturing was a safe “Job for life”. Not anymore. How secure is any industry now? Retail? It’s only a matter of time before sales assistants are a thing of the past. I see that Amazon have opened an unstaffed grocery store in the USA. With cameras on the ceiling, reading bar-codes as you put your groceries into your bag, scanned on your way out. Payment sent digitally. I’m sure we’re only years away from a staff-less Department store experience. Jeans, perfume and fancy underwear, all straight into your bag. No need to queue in Debenhams or John Lewis behind someone who is returning all their Christmas gifts.
As for chef and waiters. Who knows? Service staff can be replaced up to a certain point. Many fast food restaurants are opting for ipad/tablet ordering, whereby, the customer is responsible for their own order. Are there any Michelin rated restaurants who have adopted this? In the kitchen. I will stand here now, in 2018, and say that no robot can do what we do! Being a chef is an art. Yes, I know that there are factories pumping out batches of lasagnes and turkey burgers, but I’m talking about being a chef in it’s traditional meaning.
There are issues with the lack of school leavers coming in to this industry. Catering colleges are seeing numbers decline. And although people are enjoying cooking more as a hobby, their interest in turning this into an actual job or career seems to fade. Why should they chose a career catering & hospitality? The pay isn’t great, the hours are mostly terrible and it’s not got the best reputation in the media, with cliché angry chefs dominating the TV shows. We, as chefs need to encourage and promote our trade. Highlight the positive aspects. I’ve said before that a good chef will always have a job. It’s a skill which travels globally and you can have a career as thrilling and as diverse as you want it to be. “People will always need food!” That’s what my mother told me. So whether they want to be a city centre pizza chef, an award winning mega chef, a school canteen cook or a travelling chef with a pro cycling team (That’s my dream job). The world is their oyster.
So until we get to the stage where everyone is popping meal replacement pills, I do believe chefs are safe….But I am looking over my shoulder every week. The robots are coming.