Robots on the rise — in restaurants

While the inevitable robot uprising is years away, an increasing number of restaurants are pressing them into service in the food industry. 

AP reports that with owners of eateries faced with a shortage of humans willing to take your order and bus tables, they’re turning to technology to fill the gap. 

“There’s no doubt in my mind that this is where the world is going,” Dennis Reynolds, dean of the Hilton College of Global Hospitality Leadership at the University of Houston, explains, noting the school’s restaurant pressed its first ‘bot into service in December. The robot not only makes service more efficient, it takes some of the workload off its human colleagues. 

Redwood City, California-based Bear Robotics expects to have 10,000 of its Servi robots working by the end of the year in 44 of 50 states. China’s Pudu Robotics boasts 56,000 restaurant robots worldwide. 

One restaurateur who turned to robots was Li Zhai, who runs the Madison Heights, Michigan restaurant Noodle Topia. His BellaBot, a model from Pudu Robotics, now shuttles dirty dishes, delivers food to diners, and even seats patrons. He said the ‘bot cost around $15,000 — but flesh-and-blood workers can cost up to $6,000 per month.

Still, some aren’t convinced, as the cramped quarters, and even stairs in many eateries, makes current robot models literally a poor fit for many establishments. 

“Restaurants are pretty chaotic places, so it’s very hard to insert automation in a way that is really productive,” insists Craig Le Clair, a vice president with the automation consulting company Forrester.

Well, at least you know a robot can’t spit in your food.