According to Forbes, payroll costs consume up to 25 per cent of a restaurant’s profit. Restaurateurs in Sydney and other parts of Australia hope to combat that expense by following in the footsteps of venues in Asia that have used drone waiters instead of human wait staff.
Faster and Human-Free
Waiter drones are robotic devices that soar through the air with platters of food and glasses of beverages perched on top. Customers place their orders via electronic devices or other means, then the kitchen sends out their food on trays carried by machines rather than humans. Each drone can carry up to 4.4 pounds of cargo.
Sensors on the sides of the drones prevent them from crashing into objects or people as they navigate busy restaurants. While this strategy eliminates the human element that many experts believe is essential to the hospitality industry, the waiter drones’ success in Asia suggests they might prove a valuable contribution to restaurants in Australia.
Creating New Opportunities for Human Interaction
According to CNET, a restaurant in Singapore utilizes drone waiters in its establishment, but it has elected not to cut human employees from its staff. Instead, employees spend time engaging with customers rather than serving them.
Infinium Robotics executive Junyang Woon tells the Washington Post, “Its job is to help the waiters, to alleviate some of their mundane tasks.” Members of the wait staff still take orders, respond to customer complaints, and pitch in when the drones get backed up.
Additionally, the drones used in many Asian restaurants require human interaction throughout the experience. The drone arrives at a guest’s table, for example, and the waiter removes all the items and places them in front of the customers. Afterward, the waiter hits a button on the side of the drone to send it back to the kitchen for the next trip.
Eliminating Congestion in Restaurants
Restaurateurs must maximize profits by packing their venues with as many tables and chairs as possible. This creates precious little walking room, leading to frustration and accidents among employees. Drones, however, fly seven to nine feet in the air, above human heads, so they don’t clog the aisles between diners.
Not only does this help waiters and other restaurant workers, but it also leads to increased customer satisfaction. When guests need to use the restroom or exit the establishment, they don’t have to fight a tidal wave of people, trays, platters, and other obstacles.
Rescuing Workers from On-The-Job Injuries
Waiters can suffer from numerous work-related injuries that compromise their comfort, ability to do their jobs, and overall health. Repetitive stress injuries remain common among wait staff, according to HealthDay. Balancing large platters of food creates stress on the delicate tendons in the wrists and fingers, leading to pain and even ligament damage. Additionally, waiters are vulnerable to slip-and-fall accidents while balancing precarious platters of food and beverages.
Waiter drones do not eliminate these risks, but they reduce the potential for on-the-job injuries. Waiters can focus on navigating the restaurant to attend to individual guests’ needs rather than juggling heavy objects.
A Legal Maneuver
Concern over the legality of drones has kept waiter drones from spreading across the globe. Numerous privacy issues have surfaced in several countries, including the United States and Canada, leading government officials to establish laws concerning their use.
In Australia, for example, drones are not permitted to approach within 30 meters of human beings. However, the law does not extend to interior dwellings, which is why waiter drones can conceivably become a reality in Sydney and elsewhere in Australia.
Drones in Practice
While waiter drones might seem like the perfect solution to restaurants’ problems, they don’t fix every obstacle the modern eatery faces. For one thing, some customers recoil from the idea of robotic waiters, preferring instead to interact with human beings.
Many Sydney restaurant owners look forward to the opportunity to implement their own drone waiter programs. The growing field of robotics as well as the potential for job losses in restaurants will influence the success or failure of such endeavors.