Since the COVID-19 outbreak began last year, one of the significant challenges that restaurants face (beyond closings and restrictions regarding the service) is staffing.
A shortage of labor in the restaurant industry has resulted in numerous issues, including long wait times and miserable customers.
This has led some owners of restaurants to come up with new ideas and include robots in the mix.
These advanced machines help with the issue of low-quality labor, but they also decrease human-to-human interactions when the presence of too many people in a single space can be harmful to health.
The reactions to this new technology have been mixed. However, it could still be worth a close review of your establishment is struggling to keep staff at a high level.
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What Is a Robot Waiter?
A robot waiter does precisely what it looks like: a robotic who takes orders and serves food to patrons in a restaurant. Although these waiters typically don’t accept orders, they can deliver food to patrons and remove dirty dishes.
However, they can’t work on their own; staff at restaurants remain required to take orders, inform the machine where it is, and load dishes used on the robot.
Many companies manufacture robot waiters. They usually are shaped like rolling bookshelves with shelves that can be used to store dishes (both going and coming). In addition, the appearance and functions of the robots can vary.
For instance, Bella is a waiter robot designed for Pudu Robotics designed to resemble cats. It has four trays, a touchscreen and an infrared camera that lets it navigate the dining area.
A staff member loads food to be served at a table on one of the trays, selects a table’s number, and Bella can zoom off and deliver hot fresh, delicious food.
When Bella shows up at the dining table, she declares:
“Here I am! Hello, dear guest. Please collect your food and make sure you hit confirm.”
Once the customer confirms they received an order, Bella returns to the kitchen. If the guest forgets to verify their order on the touch screen, Bella returns to the kitchen when it detects that the trays are incomplete.
Bella does not just look like a cat but does act like one. After taking their tray out, customers can pet the robot’s ears and get it to purr. If they can pet Bella over a long period of time, the robot will show anger (like the real cat!) and go back into the dining room.
A different robot developed through Pudu Robotics, Hola, serves as a busboy. Hola comes with three bins that could be used to store dirty dishes. It has motion recognition technology, a massive carrying capacity, and a voice control system.
Other companies make robot waiters with similar capabilities, like Matradee, produced by Richtech Robotics.
Matradee can open kitchen doors and carry up to four food trays to customers, and it also serves as a busser that takes food waste back to kitchens.
It’s equipped with pulsed lasers to measure the distance to be easily moved throughout the dining room.
The purpose of these robots isn’t to replace staff. Instead, it enhances their job, which allows them to focus more on the needs of their customers, even when they are short of staff.
Robot Waiters: Pros
Are robot waiters the right choice for you?
To decide, you’ll have to consider all the advantages and disadvantages of introducing a robot to your business.
Robots are usually efficient solutions to a labor shortage, and they could also improve your profits. A restaurant in the Detroit area spends around $800 per month on two robotics (Bella Hola and Hola).
This is within the cost of about 1,000 dollars per month to put an automated waiter. Compared to the expense of employing one or more workers for the same job, the robots could represent considerable savings in cost.
- Automating food services with businesses and robot waiters will also boost security.
- So long as the staff can input the correct order and then send it to the right table, there’ll be fewer errors when delivering the correct order to the customers.
- Robotic waiters can also boost efficiency, and they often can carry greater loads in a single tripthan human workers. However, maintaining the load of transporting dishes from and to the tables lets staff engage with customers more.
- This leads to another advantage: better suggestions for staff.
- One Florida restaurant discovered that the team got a wage increase when they hired an automated waiter. The reason? Employees could be more attentive to their customers and provide more food to tables. This led to higher customer satisfaction as well as more tips.
- In the end, robots may increase businesses. Customers are drawn to innovative and exciting things, so having a robotic assistant on staff could get more customers to your door.
Your customers may also take numerous photos and videos from the robotic that they can share on social media, which could be used as free advertising for your company.
Robot Waiters: Cons
However, there are a few disadvantages of using robot waiters.
- While some patrons may appreciate the experience, some (particularly old people) might be put off when a robot brings them their food, and they might not want to take their nutrition from the machine or engage with the machine.
- Personnel who are using the robots will also need training. The quality of the training and the attention paid by staff to the smallest of details can affect the efficiency of robots.
- If your employees aren’t attentive when loading the robot and then transferring it to the proper table, it won’t help make your employees’ lives simpler.
- The robots are also unable to answer customer inquiries as employees could. For instance, when a robot delivers food to the table when a patron notices something amiss with their meal, they’ll need to call an employee to fix the issue.
- This can result in angry customers who don’t like going through additional steps to receive a suitable dish.
Whether to employ robotic waiters (or not!) is a decision that each restaurant’s proprietor must decide. There are plenty of positive reasons to be part of this new wave (particularly when labor shortages continue to become a significant issue); it’s not just for everyone.