Freshii using virtual cashiers should not be tolerated

The food chain’s fresh addition leaves a rotten aftertaste

Some Freshii Ontario locations now have virtual cashiers. (Keet Kailey)

Some Freshii Ontario locations now have virtual cashiers. (Keet Kailey)

A recent addition at Freshii has left people with a rotten aftertaste. 

The food chain was recently under scrutiny for employing virtual cashiers at some of their Ontario locations, hiring people from Nicaragua for $3.75 US an hour, about $5 Cdn. 

With the pandemic causing many businesses to adapt to smaller staff and declined sales, this may have been Freshii’s response to saving money. This could also be the start of something new, as there are mentions of a “labour optimization program” in a recent corporate filing by Freshii.

But this is a problem. 

The hourly wage given to these workers is hardly a fraction of what an American or Canadian Freshii employee makes. The minimum wage in Ontario is $15 per hour, and according to Freshii job postings on Glassdoor, the hourly salary for Freshii servers ranges from $12 to $16 US.

This outsourcing has also taken away work from the community who may have lost their jobs over the past two years or the opportunity for a student’s first job. 

While the practice of outsourcing is not illegal in Canada, it’s wrong to outsource work to maximize profits at the expense of people looking for work in Canada, especially when the hourly wage in Nicaragua is so little and not a living wage. That goes along the definition of exploitation. 

Criticism of Freshii for this practice grew quickly. Reactions include some calling the government of Ontario to do something about it, and some people boycotting Freshii altogether. 

Like many others, I’m also disappointed with what Freshii has done. Not only for outsourcing for cheap work, but they could have utilized this idea in a better way that would benefit the community. 

If they had implemented this earlier in the pandemic, using this technology could have been useful to protect both employees already working at Freshii and customers eating there. It could also be used right now for any of those working there who still feel unsafe about working in person and pay Canadians for it. 

Freshii could also help those working from Nicaragua and offer them Ontario’s minimum wage, or at least a living wage for their home country. 

As someone who works in retail, I understand a lot of businesses have gone through a rough experience the past two years trying to stay afloat. However, that should not result in cutting more people financially who are also trying to make it through.

Hopefully, this practice doesn’t expand to other Freshii locations or to other businesses.