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Meet Freshii’s new $3.75 per hour ‘virtual cashier’

The Toronto Star | | Apr 26, 2022

Percy order here - Meet Freshii’s new $3.75 per hour ‘virtual cashier’Union leaders ‘disgusted’ as restaurant chain develops ‘labour optimization programs’ that outsource jobs to countries that pay less.

Many Freshii customers have already encountered “Percy.” The Star verified three locations in Ontario that use these virtual cashiers — two in Toronto and one in Waterloo.  The program is only in the early stages of testing, but Freshii’s virtual cashiers are part of a wave of outsourcing and automated technology that is slowly changing Canada’s retail industry.  For many Ontario retail workers, the implications of these innovations raise a daunting question: how secure is my job?

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Freshii’s chief business development officer Paul Hughes said Percy is operated by a third-party company:

“Just like with Uber Eats, Skip the Dishes, self-checkout options and other emerging ordering/cashier technologies, Freshii is always looking to be an early tester and adopter of new tech solutions that might make it easier for our customers to order healthy meals and our franchise partners to run more successful restaurants.”

In Ontario, where the minimum wage is $15 (Canadian), Freshii’s virtual cashier program could potentially save the company $10 or more an hour.  The practice is entirely legal.  Jonathan Pinkus, an employment lawyer and partner at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP:

“It’s just like any other kind of outsourcing: if you’re sending jobs to people in a different country, you’re only obligated to comply with the labour standards of that country.  Being virtually present in Ontario doesn’t change that.”

Read:  Bracing For Change In The Era Of The Augmented Workforce

An increase in outsourcing and automation may prove to be one of the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic legacies.  Sobeys introduced “smart carts”: shopping carts that scan shoppers’ items, track total bills, accept payment and let them skip the checkout line. Late last year, Dark Horse Espresso opened a chain of “robo-cafes” around Toronto — autonomous, contactless machines that occupy street-facing retail space and spit out lattes.

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