CEO of Carl's Jr. Has Some Interesting Ideas About the Low Wage Workforce

April 25th 2016

Alex Mierjeski

The CEO of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's believes a higher minimum wage is edging out human workers — and he's alright with it.

Andy Puzder, who heads CKE Restaurants (which owns the above eateries), splashed across headlines last month after giving an interview to Business Insider in which he made the case for increased automation technology, such as ordering kiosks, in his restaurants.

"They're always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there's never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case," he said.

"If you're making labor more expensive, and automation less expensive — this is not rocket science," Puzder added.

Carl's Jr

Puzder's comments come as the movement to increase the minimum wage gains traction in states, cities, and businesses across the country, as well as on the national political stage, with support from leading Democratic 2016 presidential contenders. But even as quick- and full-service competitors such as Joe's Crab Shack and even McDonald's make concessions to the movement to raise the wage, Puzder has remained vocal in his opposition to the movement.

"Dramatic increases in labor costs have a significant effect on the restaurant industry, where profit margins are pennies on the dollar and labor makes up about a third of total expenses," Puzder wrote in The Wall Street Journal recently. "As a result, restaurants are looking to reduce costs while maintaining service and food quality."

Some economists, however, see it differently. According to David Cooper, a senior economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute, the notion that higher wages increase unemployment is oversold by opponents.

"This is just pure scare tactics," Cooper told ATTN:. "We've heard this for decades, and it's never really materialized."

According to Cooper, even if higher wages do wind up cutting a small amount of jobs — which, studies show, is possible — better paid employees would pump money into the economy, creating more demand, and, therefore, jobs.

"Even if there's cost-savings to some restaurants, that should lead to job creation somewhere as long as those dollars are getting in the hands of of people that are going to go out and spend that money — and again, that's part of the function of the minimum wage, to make sure that that cost savings being generated from that productivity improvement isn't just going to a small subset of people," Cooper said.

ATTN: reached out to CKE Restaurants, and a spokesperson pointed to Puzder's op-ed in The Journal.