Invasion of the Robo Waiters

Invasion of the Robo Waiters

In quite possibly the most Silicon Valley thing to ever happen, a new, NASA-honouring hotel in Mountain View, CA, is testing the final frontier of hospitality by letting robot waiters work the floor of their swanky restaurant.

I read Eater’s report with visions of the Jetsons’ maid Rosey swirling through my head. But reality seems significantly more down to earth at the Ameswell’s eatery, aptly named “Roger.” Much like household Roombas, the two robo-servers (both Servi models, created by Bear Robotics were first unleashed to roam the floor of the restaurant, creating an internal “map.” Then, food and beverage manager Jacky Li programmed each of them a home base in the two busiest spots – next to the bar, and the patio. Human servers drop used silverware and plates in the bots’ built-in bins; when those are full, the bots drop them at the dishwashers and then return. So while the mechanical bussers are doing the less-glamorous part of the job, they’ve freed up the human servers to do what they do best… human!

“The idea behind the robots, [food and beverage manager Jacky] Li says, is not to replace workers, but rather to use them as an amenity for servers, ‘So they can spend more time on guest interaction, guest needs, rather than them having to leave the floor every five minutes.’ While the robots aren’t being used to serve yet, Li is eager to try them out in other settings, like for passing apps in the ballroom during a banquet, and maybe eventually to deliver food and drinks in the restaurant. ‘There are a lot of ways we can use the robot. We’re just scratching the surface,’ says Li. So the robots are really working as bussers at the moment, although you could say they may get promoted to servers.

  • While Roger only opened last month, apparently patrons of all ages are already thoroughly charmed by the robots. (The robots themselves may not be as charmed: One tried to escape out the front door after a glitch!) Only time will tell if these automated employees can grasp the more complicated roles intended for them. And as long as they don’t involve lasers or becoming unexpectedly sentient, we should be fine.