Mario Batali ( (Image: YouTube video screen grab)

He may wear orange crocs and a ponytail, but don’t let the portly chef’s appearance convince you he’s anything less than business when it comes to running his restaurant/food business empire.

At a conference this past Wednesday, the Food Network star and entrepreneur weighed in on the controversy over raising the minimum wage. Mario Batali is decidedly agin’ it.

Via BuzzFeed:

Batali told Recode’s Kara Swisher at Recode’s Code Commerce conference in New York that most restaurants operate on such thin margins that it isn’t viable to pay the kitchen staff higher wages.

Raising the minimum wage, Batali said, is “a fascinating way of looking at raising quality of life,” but one that will ultimately “raise the costs for a smaller operator.”

He had more to say on the topic:

I understand why restaurant automation exists. Because as we raise all of the costs of the staffing … I mean, minimum wage is a great idea, raising it to a high number is a very fascinating way at enriching the basic populous. But at the end of the day if you raise one of these physical costs to a smaller operator, you must realize that’s gonna effect the bottom like, meaning the prices are gonna have to go up.

Everyone champions all of these great things and all of these social movements, but they are preying on a business that already has thin margins.

It’s an odd thing that minimum wage as effective as it might be to augmenting the general lifestyle of a lot of people, it’s not the fastest way of advancing a higher quality of life.

Batali went on to note that high labor costs were one of the reasons why fully automated “semi-fast food” restaurants like Eatsa had caught on. At the restaurant, which has a branch on each coast, you build your “bowl” based on several fixed menu options, then pick it up at a serving window.

For better or worse, the handwriting is on the wall. In June McDonald’s announced that it was replacing 2,500 of its human cashiers With computerized kiosks before the year is out.

When the robots begin dining instead of humans, you’ll know we’re in trouble.