By: Anika Dewjee
The surge in post-pandemic demand leaves countless restaurants drowning in orders and employee mishaps. One solution is the automation of restaurants. What started in 1983 with two robot servers at California’s Two Panda Deli has now developed into a worldwide phenomenon, as the world’s first fully automated restaurant, Pazzi, just opened in Paris last July. According to Naveen Joshi, who works in the AI industry and is a contributor to Forbes Magazine, “the global robotics market is expected to attain a value of USD 147.26 billion” by 2025 (Joshi, 2020).
The rise of robots in the restaurant industry bears many benefits, including simplification, cost reduction, and enhancement. The use of high-tech AI devices allows for identical replication of dishes and enables restaurants to offer international and complex dishes. Though the technology is undoubtedly expensive, automation can reduce costs in the long run as robot chefs can perform multiple tasks simultaneously, such as washing dishes, cleaning tables, and serving. They also work longer hours at a pace faster than humans to maximize productivity and revenue.
An unexpected benefit of this technology is the enhanced consumer experience. Jonah Karafiol, an incoming freshman at Harvard University and frequent restaurant diner says, "high-tech restaurants provide not only efficiency but also a sense of fascination and entertainment that gives certain restaurants a leg-up for me.” Even simpler ordering kiosks can be invaluable to restaurants struggling to keep up with long lines while collecting consumer demographics and data. Ali Dewjee, the owner of a fast-casual Indian restaurant, Bombay Wraps, says that his kiosk has “transformed the ordering process” and “increased efficiency in the restaurant’s complex processes.
The resulting effects of automated restaurants have not all been positive. For example, the use of robots leads to a lack of culinary creativity, risk of repetitive flavors, decreased human contact, and poses a threat to aspiring restaurant workers. Despite these cons, Lightspeed’s 2021 Global State of the Hospitality Industry Report calculated that “50% of U.S. restaurant operators are planning to implement some form of automation technology in the next two to three years” (Malhotra, 2022) while the rest remain hesitant.
Joshi from Forbes agrees that “the rise of robot restaurants is inevitable," (Joshi, 2020) and we must prepare for the impending automation in the restaurant industry and our everyday lives.