We have video confirmation via TikTok that the robots have infiltrated Denny’s and the good citizens of the internet are freaking out. These people have obviously not been keeping up with The Takeout’s ongoing robot coverage, which has been reporting on the steady rise in robotic restaurant staffers for years. While robotics companies promise that these machines can slash restaurants’ labor costs, they fortunately can’t do everything a human can do just yet, and until they can, restaurants will still have to pay wages to living, breathing servers.
So, for the foreseeable future, robots will be used to assist humans rather than replacing them outright. In the comments of their TikTok video, user @miabellaceo pointed out their order was taken by a human, and another human poured their coffee; the robot only showed up to perform other tasks. The Denny’s robot (which those of us in the robo-know immediately identified as Bear Robotic’s Servi) is a model designed to deliver food to tables and bring dirty dishes back to the kitchen. It’s helpful, but as with all robots, this labor-saving device is a double-edged sword.
There are lots of good reasons why robots are a positive addition to restaurants besides the bottom line. When servers don’t have to take care of menial tasks, they can pay more attention to their guests and cover more tables. From the consumer’s perspective, food arrives when it’s hot and fresh, and when the food is consistently good, customers keep coming back, which keeps those servers employed. Yes, some restaurant jobs could theoretically be eliminated by these robots, but on the other hand, restaurant work is a field that employees are currently already leaving behind in favor of other careers.
But of course, there’s a darker side to the robot infiltration: In the comments beneath the TikTok video, one user wrote, “So we don’t have to tip anymore?” So far, more than 1,600 people have liked the comment.
It’s possible that someday soon, none of us will be able to remember a time when Denny’s was robot-free. No matter how many people on TikTok say they’ll “never eat at there again,” Denny’s doesn’t seem too worried. Still, no matter how many robot assistants your server might have, always tip a minimum of 20%, because they’re working hard to serve you in ways beyond carrying your plates.