Serving robots address the chronic labor shortage issue and more.

With inflation at historically high rates, restaurants are struggling to rein in operating costs. Concurrently, they are also dealing with a massive labor shortage and the unpredictable work ethic of Gen Z employees. “Countless customers we’ve surveyed brought up the difficulty of onboarding new workers, only for them to provide no notice when sick or just ghosting altogether,” says David Park, director of sales at Navia Robotics, a company with extensive experience deploying robotics solutions to combat the rising costs and the labor shortage pervasive in the food service industry.

“Even restaurants that aren’t experiencing a labor shortage have substantial labor inefficiencies,” Park says. “They have enough workers to cover the peak times, but during off-peak hours, a substantial proportion of the workers are sitting idle. Our robots are designed to bridge the gap in this imbalance.”

In California, measure AB 257, which sets the minimum wage for fast food workers at chains with more than 100 restaurants to $22 an hour beginning in 2023, is expected to have huge ramifications, and not just for the larger chains that meet that criteria. “I spoke to several independent restaurant owners who were concerned their workers won’t stick around when they can get paid more at these chains,” Park says. “Taking wage competition into account, that’s $45,000 or more per worker every year, which is around the cost of three of our robots. Our robots are essentially free labor after that first year.”

Serving robots from Navia Robotics come with multiple trays and a plethora of smart sensors to avoid obstacles. Bellabot, a customer favorite, can carry 90 pounds of food on four trays in one go—the equivalent of three human workers in a footprint of just 22 inches in diameter. They have better consistency and repeatability than robots from other companies, positioning to within four inches of its designated location and navigating aisles as narrow as 21.5 inches on some models.

The response from restaurants that have deployed serving robots have been resoundingly positive. The robots do what they do best: running food, escorting guests, or bussing dishes to designated stations. That frees up workers to do what robots cannot possibly replace; providing human interaction with guests. The robots free up time and energy for workers so they can stay in the dining area to quickly respond to the needs of customers. They can also deliver hot dishes and soups safely, drastically cutting the risk of burns for both workers and guests.

Other nice features include a birthday mode to provide a fun ambiance for celebratory guests. Watch a robot come to a patron’s table as guests take pictures and upload videos on social media, providing brand awareness and free marketing. “Robots are here to stay,” says Peter Kim, chief technology officer of Navia Robotics. “The sooner you adapt to deploy them in your operation, the better prepared you are for the future. We’re here to make that transition as smooth as possible.”

To learn more, visit the Navia Robotics website

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