- A California restaurant is employing a robot to serve customers amid a huge labor shortage.
- The robot is equipped to carry up to four trays of food and dishes to hungry customers.
- It is not designed to replace jobs though, the manager of Sugar Mediterranean Bistro told NBC News.
A restaurant in Stockton, California, is using a robot helper to serve customers as it struggles to hire workers amid the US labor shortage.
“We are struggling to find people to come in and work, just like every other business right now,” Ana Ortiz, general manager of the Sugar Mediterranean Bistro, told NBC News.
“I don’t have enough employees to be running around food and serving tables,” she added.
The robot was created by Richtech Robotics, and has been given the name Matradee by the company. It’s capable of opening kitchen doors, allowing deliveries to go from the kitchen to the table, Richtech’s website states.
The Matradee also uses LiDAR, among other technology, to maneuver and detect its surroundings up to 20 feet.
This helps it to carry up to four trays of food and dishes to hungry customers. “So, let’s say I’m at table two, I’m taking the order for table two while the robot is running the food for me to table seven. I load up the robot with dirty dishes, and it takes it right back to the dishwasher,” Ortiz told NBC News.
It won’t be able to hold a conversation with patrons, but it can communicate in phrases. “If the robot is just sitting at a table, it tells you, ‘Please take your food, I have to go back to work,'” Ortiz said.
Ortiz also told the outlet that the robot is not intended to replace jobs. The restaurant offered competitive wages and flexible schedules but applicants were still hard to come by, she said. “Nobody wants to come in and apply. Nobody wants to work. It’s just helping us because of the shortage of employees,” she added.
The US is in the midst of a huge labor shortage that’s causing some businesses to cut operating hours, slash production, and raise prices. The owner of Manville Pizza in Manville, New Jersey, told Insider that he’d had to raise menu prices for chicken wings by more than 50%.
The leisure hospitality industry appears to be hit particularly hard by the labor squeeze. About 75% of independent restaurants said they were struggling to attract staff. Some have had to temporarily close because of staff shortages.
And some restaurant staff are even quitting during their shifts, as Insider’s Kevin Shalvey reported.