Availability of cooks is a key decision point
Restaurants are taking the technology plunge into robots—mainly to do repetitive tasks in the kitchen, but also to serve customers. These machines help make salads, pizzas, noodles, cocktails and burgers efficiently. They help cut costs, and to many customers they bring techy appeal and a taste of the future.
Some operators showcase the robots to pique customer curiosity. Others don’t—perhaps to keep the image intact of chef-led meals made by hand, or to avoid pushback from customers who lack confidence in robots or feel they may be taking jobs away from workers.
One high-end San Francisco restaurant, Atelier Crenn, creates a futuristic ordering experience with PeppAR, a waiter robot that takes orders while holding a menu on a tablet. Using augmented reality on the Holo Yummy platform, the tablet also previews food with a 3D hologram, which diners can see on their phones or tablets once they download the app.
Are robots right for your retail grocerants?
The answer may depend on the labor situation in your local markets because: Robots are one way to blunt the profits impact of a rising minimum wage. And they can help do repetitive prep tasks in the face of a mounting shortage of young, skilled chefs.
Mark Erickson, provost at the Culinary Institute of America, told The Washington Post, “The industry is basically screaming that they can’t find cooks.” He doesn’t worry about “preparing students for a career working alongside robots,” the paper’s account said. Restaurateurs in major markets across the country told the Post and Fortune of difficulties hiring due to low pay, uncomfortable working conditions and high living costs. Also, fewer Mexican immigrants are on hand, whom the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated in 2010 comprised 1.4 million out of 12.7 million restaurant industry workers. Pew Hispanic Center pegged undocumented immigrants at “about 20% of the country’s more than 2.5 million chefs and cooks” in 2008, the Post reported.
If you anticipate a shortage of prep cooks in your trading area, robots may be likelier in your future.