Should You Start A Robot Restaurant?

Should You Start A Robot Restaurant?

The robots have made their presence felt in restaurants, from self-service kiosks to robot chefs; these robots come in many forms. The kind and the way robots are contributing, they are here to stay for long. All this is testimony to the fact robot-run restaurant is a reality for the sci-fi concept. 

Are you one who is looking to launch a robot restaurant? It is still pretty early for robots in restaurants. However, it can give you additional benefits and allows you to give yourself a headstart against your competitors if you start to embrace robot now.  

Automation has become an integral part no matter which sphere of life you talk about. Automation has become a need now. This has been realized by businesses, thereby have resorted to AI-powered machines and programs to reduce the cost of manpower. It also has the ability to handle many jobs with more efficiency. When it comes to the restaurant business, skilled human staff are becoming harder to come by, while rising overheads are making it harder for restaurants to afford large teams of staff. In such a case, the addition of robots to the mix could be helpful as it could solve the skill shortage and help reduce the need for large human teams of staff.

In the near future, robots will be a common thing in restaurants, but they are still a novelty right now. All these factors make it the perfect time to embrace robots in a restaurant. Using robots could provide a USP that could potentially attract extra customers. Till the time your competitor delves into this arena, you will be well aware of the nitty gritty of robot restaurants. 

How restaurants are using robots, and what are the requirements that are needed to run a  robot restaurant? These are some of the questions I shall be dealing with in this article. 

How are Restaurants Currently Using Robots?

There are different types of robots currently being used in restaurants. Following are some of them mentioned. 

1. Automated Dishwashers: Automated dishwashers can be one of the oldest robots in restaurant kitchens. Automated dishwashers can be used to clean dishes. There are even automated glass wash cleaners that you can buy to wash the glasses. 

2. Automated/self-service Coffee Machines: Automated/self-service Coffee Machines are used by a number of restaurants. These machines reduce the task of having to manually prepare coffee. Automated/self-service Coffee Machines are used to produce all kinds of beverages, from espresso shots to cappuccino. 

3. Self-Service Kiosks: Technically robots, most probably used in all the local McDonald or KFC. Self-service kiosks are essentially touchscreen menus used to place orders, take payments, and give receipts. Many restaurants have started using them to reduce the need for manned kiosks. Some of the main manufacturers of this technology are Lightspeed Restaurant, Toast and KioskBuddy.

4. Food Delivery Robots: During the pandemic, a number of companies like GrubHub resorted to food delivery robots. Many restaurants have continued to deploy robot couriers. In fact, the likes of Dunkin Donuts, Subway, and Pizza Hut recently invested a huge sum of $10 million into KiwiBot to expand its fleet of delivery robots. Other companies like Starship Technologies have also proven a popular choice when it comes to supplying delivery robots to colleges. 

5. Robot Waiters: Robot waiters are becoming more and more common. Robot waiters like BellaBot are commonly found in a number of restaurants in different cities across the world. They are, in fact, one of several different types of robot waiter currently available for sale/hire. These robots can used to take food and drinks to the customers’ tables; however, you need to remove the drinks/plates from the robot’s tray manually. 

6. Robot Chefs: Over a period of time, it has been noticed that Robots are making their way to your kitchens as well.  Popular peri-peri chicken chain Nandos recently started trialing Karakuri /FRYR210 – a robotic fry line that can cook fries – in its London Park Royal Restaurant. A burger-flipping robot called Flippy 2 has also been produced, and it is speculated that many restaurant chains, including White Castle, have already placed orders. Flippy 2 is an improved version of the original Flippy robot that was released in 2018 – but sadly suspended after one day for being too slow.

Are There Fully Automated Restaurants?

The majority of restaurants introducing robots across the world are still being manned by human staff. In these, the robots are primarily used to alleviate work for humans instead of replacing them. However, there are a few restaurants across the world that have made the jump to go fully automated. 

Unsurprisingly, Japan is leading the movement. They were the first to introduce robots in restaurants. A number of restaurants have already been opened up that are practically fully automated, including a pasta restaurant called  E Vino Spaghetti and a number of Kura Sushi restaurants that are mostly automated.

Mezli in San Francisco meanwhile serves Mediterranean food bowls that are fully prepared by robots.  All you need to do is, walk in, place your order on a touchscreen self-service kiosk, and pick up your order once it is prepared. There is no human involvement needed, and the owner is considering launching many more such stores in and across the US. 

McDonalds also opened its fully automated outlet in Texas last year. Here, the food is prepared by a robot and then presented to the customer on a conveyor belt. The restaurant has had mixed reactions so far.  

Are Robot Restaurants Ethical?

Launching a robot restaurant is quite possible, but the question is, is it ethical? As with using AI to replace any job, there is a risk that you could be taking away jobs from your community. 

The robot restaurant turns a human-run automated restaurant into a fully automated restaurant, where the staff is literally replaced by the robots. Once you create a new robot restaurant, you are not taking any jobs from anyone, as no one was employed there to begin with. 

Besides, all the restaurants that are likely to embrace robots in the future will continue to hire human staff to work alongside the robots, as there are limits to what robots can do. They, at the same time, can be quite useful to carry out the repetitive menial jobs since the robots can’t handle complaints or have any conversation with the customers. The job of the robot is to help alleviate work from humans but not take over it. You can make it less of a threat and more of a helpful aid. 

How Much Do Restaurant Robots Cost?

One of the biggest barriers preventing more and more restaurants from embracing robots right now is the high cost of acquiring them. However, of late, it has been noticed that the price is going down, and robot manufacturers are finding ways to make robots more accessible such as offering installment plans and hiring options. 

The following examples will give you an idea with regard to the cost factor and payments. BellaBot robot waiter currently costs about $20,000 to buy outright. However, there are other options for making the payment available. You can pay a monthly fee of $1000 to $2000 instead. Flippy 2 – the burger-flipping robot – entered the market at a cost of $30,000. However, there are plans in place where you can buy it by paying $1500 per month instead.

If you plan to buy a robot outright, you will likely need to look into funding options such as small business loans or help from investors. Renting and paying in installments could be a more easy, convenient, and affordable option as it provides you an opportunity to make enough revenue to cover this monthly fee. 

What Does it Take to Maintain a Robot Restaurant?

To get the best out of your robots, you must make sure that the robot is well maintained. Robot waiters and delivery robots are supposed to be charged after every shift, which you need to teach your human staff. Although some of the robots are cleaning, however, the majority of the robots are supposed to be cleaned manually. The process of cleaning will vary depending on the nature of the robot. 

Robots should be serviced annually to make sure that there are no bugs or issues. Some robot suppliers do offer warranties or free servicing as a part of the cost of buying/hiring them, while others don’t. In order to repair these robots, hire specialists, which at times could be costly depending on the fault. So keep a certain amount aside for this. 

Is a Robot Restaurant Easier or Harder to Run Than a Normal Restaurant?

There are arguments that could be both in favor and against. Robots can relieve work from human staff, such as taking orders and taking food to the tables. However, it is important to weigh up the added maintenance while you consider a robot and find out if they are more convenient in the real sense. In most cases, the robots will make things easier, but at times, it could prove fatal and complicate things. One of the examples is hiring a robot waiter in a small restaurant where you may have to help robots find a clear path to each table constantly. In such a case, you could be making more work for yourself. 

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