One of the biggest issues facing restaurants in the past several years has been staffing. A labor shortage throughout the industry has led to a range of problems, including much longer wait times and incredibly frustrated customers.
This has led many restaurant owners to get creative and bring robot waiters into the mix. Not only do these high tech machines address labor shortages, but they also reduce human-to-human contact at a time when too many people in a small area could be a health risk. The reviews of this new technology have been decidedly mixed, but it may still be worth a closer look if your restaurant is struggling to stay fully staffed.
At Budget Branders, we understand how difficult it can be to run a small business. From handling staffing issues to getting the supplies you need at a fair price, entrepreneurs face challenges every day. We’re here to help, offering custom-branded disposables in quantities and at prices that make sense for your business.
What Is a Robot Waiter?
A robot waiter is exactly what it sounds like: a robot that takes orders and delivers food to diners at a restaurant. While these robot waiters generally do not take orders, they deliver food to customers and even take away dirty dishes. Of course, they don’t operate independently; restaurant staff are still necessary to load orders, tell the robot where to go, and put used dishes onto the robot.
Several companies make robot waiters. Typically, they look like rolling bookshelves, with shelves available to hold dishes (both coming and going). Beyond that, the aesthetics and features of the robots vary.
Popular Robot Waiter Models For The Restaurant Industry
Robot waiters aren’t intended to replace employees. Instead, robot waiters supplement their work, allowing them to focus more on taking care of their customers – even when short-staffed. Some of the most popular models on the market along with their capabilities can be found below.
Bella By Pudu Robotics
Bella is a robot waiter designed by Pudu Robotics that is designed to look like a cat. It features four trays, a touchscreen, and an infrared camera that allows it to navigate around the dining room. A staff member loads food for a table onto one of the trays, enters a table number, and Bella zooms off to deliver hot, fresh food.
Once Bella arrives at the table, it announces its presence: “Here I am! Hello, dear guest. Please pick up and don’t forget to hit confirm.” After the guest confirms that they got their order, Bella returns to the kitchen. If the guests forget to confirm on the touchscreen, Bella will return to the kitchen once it senses that its trays are empty.
Bella doesn’t just look like a cat – it also acts like one. After removing their tray, customers can pet the robot behind its ears to get it to purr. If customers pet Bella for too long, it shows irritation (like a real cat!) and returns to the kitchen.
Hola By Pudu Robotics
A separate robot manufactured by Pudu Robotics, Hola, acts as a busboy. Hola has three large bins that can be filled with dirty dishes. It features gesture recognition, a high carrying capacity, and a voice control module.
CLOi By LG
CLOi is an advanced service robot by LG. CLOi can do more than deliver food and cart dishes. CLOi can also be used as a hostess that can guide guests to their tables. CLOi features independent suspension to be able to deliver drinks and food over uneven surfaces without spilling anything. CLOi also comes equipped with sensors to detect obstacles and avoid collisions. The built-in screen can be used to display menu items and special promotions.
Servi By Bear Robotics
Servi is a self-driving robot that can be used to deliver food or bus plates for staff. Servi features auto-return functionality to be able to return to its post once a food delivery has been made. Servi also supports customizable audio prompts. Want Servi to wish someone a happy birthday while delivering a birthday dessert? Servi can do that.
Matradee By Richtech Robotics
Matradee is a robot server manufactured by Richtech Robotics. Matradee can open kitchen doors and deliver as many as four trays of food orders to diners. It also functions as a busser, taking dirty dishes back to the kitchen. It is equipped with a pulsed laser to measure ranges so that it can easily maneuver around the dining room.
How Much Do Robotic Waiters Cost?
Many robot waiter manufacturers aren’t very transparent with pricing on their sites. It can be hard to find exact costs for some of the more popular robot waiter models online. Based on research we’ve conducted, we’ve found these bots can average anywhere between $12,000 and $15,000. There are robot waiters for sale on Alibaba for prices as low as $1,100, but the quality of these robots may not be up to par with some of the models mentioned above.
Some restaurant owners opt to rent robot waiters as opposed to buying them. Renting can be an attractive option for owners looking to test robot servers before committing to buy one. The price to rent a robot server can start at $1,000/month for basic models with high-end models costing as much as $5,000/month. At $1,000/month a robotic waiter can be much more affordable than hiring on an additional employee.
Robot Waiters: Pros and Cons
Are robot waiters right for your restaurant? To decide, you’ll need to consider all of the benefits and drawbacks of bringing a robot into your business.
Robot Server Pros
Increased Profit Margins
Robots are often cost-effective solutions to a labor shortage, and may even boost your profit margin. A Detroit-area restaurant spends about $800 per month for two robots (Bella and Hola), which is within the expected range of approximately $1,000 per month to bring on a robot waiter. Compared to the cost of one or more employees to perform the same function, these robots likely represent a massive cost saving.
Improved Customer Service
Automating food service through robot waiters and bussers will also increase reliability. As long as staff inputs the correct order and sends it to the right table, there should be fewer errors in getting the proper order to customers.
Increased Work Efficiency
Robot waiters may also increase efficiency. They can often carry far larger loads in a single trip, compared to human employees. At the same time, taking on the burden of carting dishes to and from the tables frees up staff to interact more with customers.
Larger Employee Tips
It turns out, robot waiters may provide a very attractive benefit for your employees – higher tips. One Florida restaurant found that its staff actually saw a salary increase when it brought on a robot waiter. The reason? Employees were able to spend more time with customers, and to serve more tables. This resulted in higher customer satisfaction and larger tips.
More Generated Business
Finally, robot waiters may actually bring in business. Customers like new and interesting things, and having a robot on staff might get more people in your doors. Your clientele may also take lots of pictures and videos of the robot to post on social media – which will serve as free marketing for your business.
Robot Server Cons
Not Well Received By Those Who Don’t Like Change
While some customers may enjoy the experience, others (particularly older diners) may be put off by a robot bringing them their food. They may not want to pull their own food out of the robot, or have to interact with a machine at all.
Additional Training Required
Staff who use these robots will also require training. The quality of that training – and staff’s attention to detail – may impact the efficiency of the robots. After all, if your staff isn’t careful about loading the robot and sending it to the correct table, then it won’t actually make your employees’ lives easier.
Limited Service Functionality
These robots also cannot respond to customer requests in the same way that an employee could. For example, if a robot brings food to the table, and a diner notices something wrong with their dish, they’ll have to flag down a waiter to get it fixed. This may lead to irate customers who aren’t happy that they had to take extra steps to get the correct dish.
The decision to use robot waiters (or not!) is a personal one that has to be made by each restaurant owner. While there are plenty of good reasons to join this wave of the future (particularly if labor shortages continue to be a problem), this trend isn’t for everyone.
Will Robot Servers Replace Human Servers?
Employers worried that hiring robot servers will replace their human staff don’t need to worry too much about that aspect. Robot servers won’t be replacing human servers any time soon. This technology is still in its infancy and the functions robot servers can perform are still very limited.
Right now, robot servers can bring food to customers and ferry dirty dishes back to the kitchen. Human servers are still needed to provide conversation, take orders, check in with guests, etc. Some restaurants have also found that the current generation of robot servers isn’t always the most reliable. Two restaurants in Guangzhou, China that heavily relied on robot staff had to recently fire their robots for poor performance. According to one of the restaurant employees, “the robots weren’t able to carry soup or other food steady and they would frequently break down. The boss has decided never to use them again.”
Advances in artificial intelligence will undoubtedly lead to more advanced robots in the restaurant industry. Future models will likely be able to converse with guests, take orders, and perform many of the same functions a human waiter could. However, human jobs appear to be safe for the time being.
Keep Your Restaurant Running Smoothly with Budget Branders
No matter what you decide about bringing on a robot waiter (or two), you’ll still need plenty of other high-quality items to keep your business running strong. While we can’t help you choose the best robot waiter, we can provide you with a great selection of branded disposable products for your restaurant, bar, or coffee shop. Branded disposables may be the most cost-effective advertising you invest in. Drastically grow your brand reach and recognition as cups, bowls, and bags are carried out of your establishment and into the world.
We know how hard it is to stay profitable as a small business. To support you, we offer a wide selection of custom printed disposable products, including soup and dessert cups, paper bags, plastic cups, coffee sleeves, and ripple cups. All of our products are offered in quantities and at prices that make sense for independently owned and operated restaurants.
If you’re ready to learn more about our products, fill out our online contact form. You can also hit the chat button to speak to someone about a quote for your business.