Robot waiters are rolling into more restaurants amid labor shortages

Are robot waiters the future? It’s a question the restaurant industry is increasingly trying to answer.

Many think the waist-high machines are the solution to restaurants’ labor shortages. They can greet guests, lead them to their tables, deliver food and drinks and ferry dirty dishes to the kitchen.

Sales of robot servers have been growing rapidly in recent years, and tens of thousands of robots are now gliding through dining rooms worldwide.

“The adoption of technology will speed up as people become more comfortable with technology – both on the customer side and on the operator side,” said Karthik Namasivayam director of the Michigan State University School of Hospitality Business.

Others say robot waiters aren’t much more than a gimmick that have a long way to go before they can practically replace humans. They can’t take orders, for example, and many restaurants have steps, outdoor patios, high booths and other physical challenges to which they can’t adapt.

Still, the robots are proliferating. And at some restaurants, flourishing.

Li Zhai was having trouble finding staff for Noodle Topia, his Madison Heights, Michigan, restaurant, in the summer of 2021, so he bought a BellaBot from Pudu Robotics.

“The robot it’s very helpful for the restaurants, and it’s very helpful for any kind of business that’s hospitality,” Zhai said.