The Fried Chicken Is in New York. The Cashier Is in the Philippines.


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At Sansan Chicken in Long Island City, Queens, the cashier beamed a wide smile and recommended the fried chicken sandwich.

Or maybe she suggested the tonkatsu — it was hard to tell, because the internet connection from her home in the Philippines was spotty.

Romy, who declined to give her last name, is one of 12 virtual assistants greeting customers at a handful of restaurants in New York City, from halfway across the world.

The virtual hosts could be the vanguard of a rapidly changing restaurant industry, as small-business owners seek relief from rising commercial rents and high inflation. Others see a model ripe for abuse: The remote workers are paid $3 an hour, according to their management company, while the minimum wage in the city is $16.

The workers, all based in the Philippines and projected onto flat-screen monitors via Zoom, are summoned when an often unwitting customer approaches. Despite a 12-hour time difference with the New York lunch crowd, they offer warm greetings, explain the menu and beckon guests inside.

A remote cashier at the Sansan Ramen outlet in Queens.Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

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