Automation is here, and even restaurants won’t be overlooked as robots rise up and revolutionise almost every commercial venture.
The concept of robotic systems replacing humans in hospitality roles might sound daunting and dystopian, or simply outlandish and impossible to achieve. But this isn’t some science fiction pipe dream; a plan has already been put into action by a number of eateries around the world to embrace robotics and automation in foodservice.
Here’s a look at what the future holds for robots and restaurants, and hopefully proof that you should be excited about the arrival of automation – not afraid of it.
Restaurant staff won’t lose out
This is probably the biggest concern for anyone who’s worried about how restaurant jobs will be impacted when automation becomes more common.
Robots and artificial intelligence (AI) are happy to get on with the mundane behind-the-scenes work, taking over the mind-numbing tasks in the kitchen which don’t require finesse or skilled intuition to complete.
The human touch, meanwhile, will remain invaluable when it comes to front of house service staff; we’re a long way from matching Westworld when it comes to building robots that are indistinguishable from humans.
Even emerging fast food restaurants with machines that replace chefs still rely on a front-facing human presence to entice customers through the door and keep them happy as they dine.
Shortages will be solved
The UK is already facing something of a crisis when it comes to restaurant workers, with many employees leaving the country and vacating roles that are increasingly difficult to fill.
Robots will eventually be able to step in and fill these gaps, fitting into niches that most humans would be happy to avoid in the first place.
Experts argue that having robots take on the dogsbody duties, like cleaning dishes, clearing tables and laying cutlery, will mean that service staff can get on with the job of keeping customers happy without the threat of these tiring physical tasks looming large.
Costs will be cut
Automation will make it possible to prepare food faster and more efficiently, which in turn means restaurants will be able to charge customers less for their meals while retaining decent margins – or at least fight back against rising inflation.
At a time when discounts and deals are the norm in the hospitality industry, it’s harder than ever for independents to compete with the big boys.
With robots on hand to streamline everything and cut costs, the playing field will be levelled, and it will make a tangible difference for businesses and customers alike.
Dining won’t be disrupted
Clearly the initial concern about introducing robots to restaurants is that guests will be distracted by their presence, either through excitement at the novelty or annoyance at the change.
Thankfully you only need to look at how other technological advances have been received over the years to realise that any initial growing pains or reluctance on behalf of diners or restaurant staff to engage will eventually dissipate.
It happened for electric lighting and refrigeration, just as it happened more recently for contactless payments and online booking systems.
Robots and restaurants don’t seem like obvious bedfellows until you consider all of the potential advantages – some of which are already being leveraged.
Keeping an open mind about new technologies is vital, because burying your head in the sand only leaves you open to being leapfrogged by competitors who are at the forefront of technological innovation.