The CEO and founder of healthy-eating-focused fast-food chain Freshii has stepped down amid a steep drop in the company's share price—and a backlash to the replacement of human cashiers with "virtual cashiers" at some outlets in Canada. The Toronto-based company was accused of trying to skirt employment standards by replacing in-person cashiers with workers in Nicaragua, who took orders through a videolink, CTV reports. The Nicaraguan workers were paid $3.75 Canadian per hour, around $2.90 US, well below Ontario's minimum wage of $15.50 Canadian.
The use of the "Percy" virtual cashier system was strongly criticized by lawmakers, and some customers declared they would boycott the chain, which has 343 locations in North America, reports the Daily Hive. Freshii argued that the change "isn't about replacing people or jobs. It isn’t about lower pay or working conditions. It’s about a labor shortage across the restaurant industry."
Employment lawyer Jon Pinkus told CTV that the controversy was "another example, I think, of the law perhaps not keeping up with technology." He noted that some chains in the US, including Jack in the Box, outsourced drive-through order-taking years ago. When he announced that he was stepping down as CEO after 17 years, Matthew Corrin said he would remain as executive chairman and would be "our biggest brand champion, and our most loyal guest," per the Toronto Star. (Read more outsourcing stories.)