Scary as they can
sometimes often be, the initial idea for robots was not to create an army of technobeasts intent on upending civilization and destroying the human race. No, the whole point of robots was to help us pitiful humans by reducing the amount of work we need to do. The benevolent robots don’t want to take our jobs because they hate us, but because they want us to live in a world where no one works harder than they need to, allowing us to live freer, more fulfilling lives. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the restaurant industry’s more helpful robotic counterparts.
As you may well know, restaurant servers don’t have cushy jobs: the work is hard, the pay atrocious, the abuse rampant; the list goes on. It should come as no surprise to anyone that servers are not exactly clamoring to return to their pre-pandemic jobs, and restaurants are having trouble finding people to wait tables. This is the sort of situation that robots are meant to fix, and a number of restaurants around the country are turning to our soulless mechanical friends to do just that.
In Mountain View, California, a mere stone’s throw away from Google HQ, the new Ameswell Hotel has employed two autonomous robots to work as bussers in its restaurant, and a third one is reportedly on its way. Jacky Li, the hotel’s director of food and beverage, told Robb Report that the robots will not be used to replace staff, but rather to free up their employees to do what they do best.
“These are meant to be serving robots, but I didn’t like that as a personal touch for serving,” Li told Robb Report. “We don’t want them to replace any actual staff. My goal was to make sure these are more an amenity for the staff to help with mundane things and [the waiters] can focus more on guests.”
Meanwhile, 83 miles away in Stockton, California, NBC News reports that a robot will soon join the staff of Sugar Mediterranean Bistro, which introduced the robot to its customers via Facebook video. General manager Ana Ortiz said that the robot is not replacing any humans, stressing that the restaurant offers competitive wages and flexible schedules, but is still having trouble finding workers as this seemingly endless pandemic drags on.
“I don’t have enough employees to be running around food and serving tables,” Ortiz told NBC News. “So, let’s say I’m at table two, I’m taking the order for table two while the robot is running the food for me to table seven. I load up the robot with dirty dishes, and it takes it right back to the dishwasher.”
Lest you think the robots are confined solely to the tech-happy West Coast, think again. Eater reports that Noodle Topia in Detroit, Michigan, has hired a robot named Bella to run food from the kitchen to tables; a staff member places the food on one of the robot’s four trays, enters a table number on its touchscreen interface, and the robot takes off, using an upward-facing infrared camera to navigate through the dining room. Unlike the aforementioned robot servers, Bella—which was developed by China’s Pudu Robotics—can speak and interacts with customers and, for some reason, has the face of a cat.
Once diners remove their food from the cat-bot’s shelves, they can pet Bella behind its “ears” to make it purr. If customers overdo it, Bella will get fussy and leave in a huff, because like any good employee, Bella knows it’s on the clock, and there’s important work to be done. Good kitty.