Remember those stories you have heard about robots taking over the world? They may not be exactly accurate, but with robots replacing increasing amounts of jobs previously done by humans, they clearly seem to be on the rise. Simple jobs, especially those in the food industry such as flipping burgers, have found robots to be more efficient and fit for the work. Robots even cut the labor cost, helping out restaurants with their financial situations.
While it seems alarming that robots are taking over jobs that humans used to have, they truly improve the industry as a whole. Restaurants took a huge blow during the pandemic and are still looking to fix their labor shortages. According to the US Bureau of Labor, restaurants have to deal with an average of 6.2 fewer employees than they had in 2019. Robots pose an invaluable solution to this problem because they are fairly cheap and accessible for every restaurant, and provide steady and unwavering help. While human employees could possibly quit or lose their ability to work, robots could complete the necessary tasks for years if maintained correctly. But, they would not completely take over the industry; areas such as hospitality will continue to need humans and provide steady job opportunities. Studies show that customers react much better to face to face interactions with humans rather than robots, so human employees will continue to maintain their customer service roles in restaurants.
So far many restaurants have seen positive results when testing ways to incorporate robots into their business. One of the first to lead the charge was Stellar Pizzas, created by SpaceX engineers in 2019. Basing their model off on food trucks in LA, the drivers sell pizzas made in less than one minute by a robot. This pizza is more affordable for customers because the cost of labor is much less than a traditional business. “With automation, you get the quality and consistency for free,” said founder Benson Tsai. “It’s a really interesting way to have a quality product reproduced at scale.”
Other notable chain restaurants, including White Castle, KFC and WingStop have adopted the “Flippy,” a robot that is made to flip food consistently. Where in the past employees had to do the dull and repetitive jobs themselves, they now can focus on more important tasks and trust the robot to complete their work. In the long term, this will enable better customer service and quality at chain restaurants that may not be known for it currently. Chipotle is taking the Flippy one step further by creating its original “Chippy,” a very similar machine that cooks and seasons chips. It even uses an AI algorithm to decide how much lime and salt to put in each batch. “It started with, ‘How do we remove some of the dreariness of a worker standing at the fryer and frying chip basket after chip basket?” said Curt Garner, the Chief Technology Officer at Chipotle.
Though it sometimes may seem like they really are taking over the world, the work that robots and humans can achieve together has the potential to elevate the restaurant experience as a whole.