Desperate for Workers, Restaurants Turn to Robots

Bear Robotics, which makes the Servi robot, has seen demand skyrocket, said Juan Higueros, co-founder and chief operating officer. Aside from Sergio’s restaurants, he’s fielded inquiries from casinos, restaurant chains, arenas and even senior living residences, desperate to assist overworked staff.

“Burnout is becoming a very big problem for restaurant staff,” he said.

Peanut Robotics, a start-up, makes a robot that cleans and sanitizes restrooms, and SoftBank Robotics makes Whiz, which vacuums floors.

Although Peanut is still in the prototype phase, this hasn’t stopped hotel chains, offices and restaurants from requesting the robot. “We’re not actively marketing, but people keep finding us,” said Joe Augenbraun, the company’s chief executive. “I have demand for hundreds of them right now.”

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Knightscope makes robots that use artificial intelligence, video and two-way audio to patrol outdoor or indoor areas. It uses thermal imaging, license plate recognition and other software. There’s also an alert button on the robot that allows the caller to speak directly to someone. Demand has been particularly high lately from casinos and office buildings, said Stacy Stephens, co-founder and chief client officer at Knightscope.

Makr Shakr, based in Italy, makes robotic bartenders, whose arms can measure, mix, shake, pour and even garnish cocktails. Over the last three months, inquiries have jumped 50 percent from prepandemic levels, said Carlo Ratti, a founding partner and a professor at M.I.T.

The Tipsy Robot, a bar that opened in Las Vegas in 2017, uses Makr Shakr’s robotic arms. Its general manager, Victor Reza Valanejad, said the robot was a godsend when Covid hit. “I was getting about 120 applications a day in 2019 for bartenders,” he said. But in April 2021, the same ad took three weeks to get only 14 applications. “And of those 14, no one showed up for the interviews,” he said.

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