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Updated 30th May at 18.14 CET

What are robot waiters and how do they work?

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Rita Homem

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With the emergence of AI, many restaurants have turned to technology to improve their processes, spend less time on tasks and help with the creative flow. Most forget, however, that long before the dawn of AI, technology had been part of restaurants in their day-to-day lives in one way or another. Social media, CRM softwares and online reviews are nowadays part and parcel of being a restaurant owner.

The future of restaurant automation may lie ahead with robot waiters. The waiter labor shortage, started in 2020, is making some entrepreneurs consider taking this leap with its pros and cons.

Does the future of restaurants lie in robot waiters, or are they a fad doomed to fail? Let’s find out! 👀👇

What are robot waiters?

🤖🍽️ A robot waiter is an automated machine designed to serve food and drinks 🍜🥤 in restaurants, enhancing efficiency and customer experience. It navigates through dining areas, delivering orders directly to tables without human intervention.

First things first. Robot waiters are robotics which can:

  • 🛵 Deliver food
  • 🚌 Buss tables
  • 🥗 Take orders

Not all robot waiters are created equal, though. There are several different types of robots. Some are delivery robots with trays, while others are stationary robot arms only. Depending on your objective, you’ll need to choose a robot suited to your restaurant’s needs.

The autonomous robot waiters can move around without crashing into a table with the help of sensors. They also can have navigation systems and cameras which help them stay on track. Weight sensors in the trays alert robot waiters whenever they are carrying plates, cutlery, and cups. This way they know whether they should head to their post or deliver food!

They may also have Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection to receive new tasks from the restaurant management system. It’s important to note that this technology is still evolving and no one really knows what the future holds.

How do robot waiters work?

Usually, a robot waiter will take a tray with the food to a designated table. It will return to the kitchen staff and go around the tables delivering and receiving trays as necessary.

➕ Pros of robot waiters

Robot waiters come with many benefits and they can help you with your restaurant’s automation. 

➕ Improved efficiency and faster service, especially during peak hours, as robot waiters handle deliveries
➕ Reduced labor costs and potential solution to staffing issues, allowing human staff to focus on customer interaction
➕ Potential for data collection from robot operations, leading to menu optimization and improved customer experience

➖ Cons of robot waiters

If you are considering getting a robot waiter, it’s likely that you have already thought about the pros, but the cons are there too. They include:

➖ Inability to handle complex interactions with customers, such as special requests and upselling 
➖ High initial investment cost for some robots
➖ Potential negative impact on the restaurant’s atmosphere (depending on design and implementation)
➖ Possible distrust by some customers (for example, senior guests) over the innovation
➖ Inability to access areas with stairs

Examples of Robot Waiters

BellaBot

BellaBot is a popular choice among restaurants. Several restaurant franchises around the world use it, such as Pizza Hut, Dunkin’ and Johnny’s Restaurants. Its cute design welcomes customers and gives your restaurant a friendly environment.

BellaBot robot waiter
Image source: https://sushi-robots.eu/en/robots-de-service-les-automates-pretent-main-forte/

This fully autonomous robot waiter can serve up to 4 tables in one go and its sensors can avoid obstacles in every direction within half a second, ensuring the safety of all. It is able to open doors, so these won’t be an obstacle, and the battery lasts between 8 and 14 hours, taking around 3 hours to charge.

BellaBot costs $15,900 and the full package comes with a robot waiter, a charger, a battery and a 1-year warranty. Separately, you can purchase the robot’s installation, training and other perks. 

The rental program starts at $1,215 per month and includes shipping, installation training and ongoing support.

Contact RobotLAB for more information on BellaBot.

Matradee L

Rich Tech Robotics manufactured Matradee L, which comes with 3 adjustable trays and a 12 to 15 hours battery life. It takes 3.5 hours to charge completely, meaning that this robot waiter can last the entire day without charging.

Restaurant robot waiter
Image source: https://www.richtechrobotics.com/matradee-l

Its LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) and SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) sensors guarantee your infrastructure and customers’ safety.

Rich Tech Robotics mentions a potential ROI of 124% and $11,500 of potential yearly savings. The company also offers other robots such as ADAM, a bartender robot, and ARM, a robot arm

To know more about these and their other robots, contact Rich Tech Robotics support team.

Servi

Servi is a robot waiter created by Bear Robotics, coming in two models: Servi and Servi Mini.

This robot waiter comes with 2 trays of 40cm, and a bus tub. It lasts around 8 to 12 hours without charging and takes 4 hours to charge completely. It offers an external tablet or an attached touchscreen to interact with.

Image source: https://www.pymnts.com/news/investment-tracker/2022/bear-robotics-announces-81m-series-b-as-restaurants-struggle-to-meet-dining-demand/

Servi Mini only has one tray of 40 cm. Their number of trays is their major difference. They’re both 100% self-driving, as they’re built, just like the others, with LiDAR sensors and several cameras.

Scalability isn’t an issue if you choose one of these robot waiters, as several robots work together at the same time if need be. Finally, the trays’ weight sensors signal when they’re empty, automatically returning to the robot waiter’s post.

To know more about this robot waiter and its mini version, contact Bear Robotics customer support.

How much do robot waiters cost?

The robot waiter’s cost will depend on the model you choose to buy, but they come at 10.000$ to 20.000$. Usually, companies also rent them, costing from 750$ to 1500$ per month.

Are robot waiters right for your restaurant?

Now that we’ve gone over the pros and cons of getting a robot waiter for your restaurant, we’ll pinpoint some of the factors that you should take into consideration before deciding.

Customer’s experience

Guests always come #1 first.

The type of clientele that comes by your restaurant will inherently determine whether you should acquire a robot waiter or not.

A robot waiter is an excellent choice when it comes to restaurants providing a futuristic approach. In more traditional venues with more traditional clients, it may not be the best choice. 

You know your customers better, so decide with their opinion in mind.

Restaurant’s layout and size

Since robot waiters move on wheels, restaurants with several floors and stairs present a quite literal obstacle. Robot waiters face similar issues in small restaurants with lots of tables, as they need space to move around and not crash into tables or customers.

Talk with the companies you are considering buying a robot waiter from and discuss this matter with them.

ROI

Robot waiters seem cool, but a business doesn’t run on how cool it is. The simple question you must ask yourself is: is a robot waiter worth it?

Can it reduce labor costs, improve efficiency and increase revenue?
Will the cost savings justify the investment?

Answering these questions and doing the math will put you on the track to success.

Maintenance costs and support

A robot waiter isn’t just buying once and forgetting about it. Just like with any machine, there are maintenance costs associated with it. Some robot waiters like BellaBot offer unlimited support.

Check with each brand what are the maintenance costs for their own robots.

Scalability

Some business owners want to grow, others prefer to stay in the corner. Both options are fine, but before buying a robot waiter think of what the future might have in store for your business. Are you considering expanding? If yes, will your robot waiter be able to catch up with this growth?

By the way, if you are having a tough time managing your reservations and tables, we have the perfect solution for you: a booking management system.

Tasks you need help with

What do you really need help with? Thinking of the tasks that you need help with will let you know if a robot waiter is what your restaurant needs. 

A robot waiter might be a wonderful solution for serving and bussing tables. You might need a human waiter if your restaurant lacks a personal touch and customer interaction.

The future of Robot Waiters

Undoubtedly, robot waiters won’t escape the ever-changing landscape of technology and will see improvements over the next few years.

These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Improved navigation — advancements in LiDAR, camera sensors and AI pathfinding will allow robot waiters to navigate more complex environments
  • Enhanced interaction — robot waiters may be able to deal with more complex customer interaction
  • Multi-tasking abilities — they may handle a wider range of tasks
  • Data-driven operations — insights from robot-generated data, combined with restaurant data, can further optimize operations
  • Customization and personalization — brands may program robot waiters to remember interactions with loyal customers and register those preferences

Despite these possibilities, the question remains: are robot waiters the future of restaurants, or are they a fad doomed to fail?

At the end of the day, no one can predict the future. Robot waiters may be the best choice for one restaurant and a terrible idea for another. Only you know your restaurant and your customers best to know what the right choice is.

You may be on the fence regarding robot waiters, as they aren’t very common and pose a serious investment. There’s cheaper technology out there to help you manage your restaurant, though.

A booking management system can take the pressure off calls and help you focus on what matters: offering an amazing experience to your guests.

See for yourself. Try resOS for free.

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