Flippy, the burger-flipping robot that debuted at Caliburger is auditioning for a new position at Walmart Delis. Rising wages and low unemployment have forced restaurant and retailers to look for cost savings and efficiency in what has always been a labor intensive hospitality industry. Low availability of experienced culinary staff has created a new challenge with high-tech robotics building solutions.
Consumers today are very interested in high-tech solutions that remind us of sci-fi story lines. The wow-factor is very appealing to human interest and social media stories can spread like wildfire, fueling interest and patronage in foodservice. The integration of robotics in foodservice is still very early in the adoption cycle and can be cost prohibitive for most retailers but industry leaders are testing solutions for today and for the future.
Notwithstanding the cost of maintenance, robots show up for work every day without complaint. They don’t get sick and are less likely to make mistakes. Creating a process where ingredients, recipes, cooking methods and ultimately consistency create strong customer satisfaction is the goal. It’s important for consumers to have products that meet their expectations day-to-day and store-to-store.
With support in the kitchen, human staff can be more focused on managing customer service and attentiveness. Lines become shorter and wait times are reduced. Taking tedious tasks out of the operations reduces burn out and creates less turnover for companies.
As I see it, we are just at the beginning of a journey to develop, innovate and integrate robotic technology into the labor intensive hospitality and restaurant industry. Today’s consumer will get used to ordering food from an app just like we book airfare and hotel accommodations. This new tech will fuel the need for tech-savvy careers for programmers, analysts and technology maintenance with fewer jobs for entry level deli and restaurant operations. With more investment and focus, expect to see more robotics coming to a restaurant or deli near you.