- Understaffed restaurants are increasingly turning to technology and automation, including robot servers.
- American Robotech sells four models priced at up to $17,800.
- Videos show how its robots deliver food, clear tables, and escort diners to their seats.
Restaurants across the US are currently struggling to find labor — and are increasingly turning to technology and automation to solve their staffing woes.
They’ve been cutting their hours or closing their dining rooms, both because they can’t find enough staff and because labor is getting more expensive. Restaurant owners also say service is getting slower and that remaining employees are overworked.
This includes robotic servers.
American Robotech makes four types of robots that can perform functions including delivering food to tables, clearing dirty dishes, escorting diners to their seats, and even singing “happy birthday.”
CEO Jackie Chen told Insider that the Texas-based company started sales in early 2021 — just as businesses began to complain of understaffing.
One of his customers is La Duni, a Latin American restaurant in Dallas, which is renting three robots for $15 a day each. Espartaco Borga, the restaurant’s owner, told CNN that using the robots was a “no-brainer” to relieve his overworked staff.
Chen said the main reason restaurants had been introducing Robotech’s robots was because they were understaffed. But Chen added that some restaurants used the robots for branding purposes to differentiate themselves from rivals.
Chen said that the robots “cannot replace people.” Rather, the robots were meant to take over repetitive tasks that staff perform hundreds of times a day, he said. They could do these tasks better than people, he added.
The robots aren’t able to place food on the table. Instead, the robots have trays, on which kitchen staff place are able to place up to 10 plates, Chen said. The robots then take this to the table, where either customers or the wait staff lift it off.
The same process works in reverse for staff clearing tables.
The robots have voice-recognition software, too.
American Robotech says its robots can work for between 10 and 24 hours on a full charge.
The robots have two main driving wheels, as well as up to eight auxiliary wheels.
Chen said that the robots work similarly to autonomous cars and have a system of cameras and LiDAR sensors which scan their environment “all the time.” As a result, they’re able to stop immediately if someone gets in the way, he said.
Restaurants told him that their revenues shot up after they started using the robots, Chen said.
Chen said companies can choose to either buy or rent the robots. The smallest robot, KettyBot, costs $10,800 to buy, rising to $17,800 for the company’s largest robot, HolaBot, plus service costs, he said.
Most of his clients operated medium to large restaurants of between 2,000 and 4,000 square foot, and usually had just one robot.
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