Robot Servers Coming to a Restaurant Near You

Written by Luke Burgess
Posted December 14, 2022

"There is no fate but what we make for ourselves."
— Sarah Connor, The Terminator (1984)

Robot restaurant staff members are here, but they probably won’t be completely replacing humans anytime soon.

I recently went to Izakaya 68 in Hunt Valley, Maryland. It’s a new Japanese restaurant that specializes in authentic yakitori, noodles, and sushi.

The yakitori was good, and the sushi was exceptional.

But the real reason people are talking about Izakaya 68 is the service.


Izakaya 68 is one of several restaurants across the country now using robot servers like these.


Along with dozens of small restaurants like this one, major restaurant chains like Ruby Tuesday and Denny's have also tested robo-servers in the U.S.

In fact, Chili’s now has robo-servers in more than 50 locations across eight states.


Elsewhere, robot servers like these have been tested at McDonald’s in Slovenia as well as by Mars Inc. and The Coca-Cola Company for marketing.


Meanwhile, fully automated “restaurants” like Mezli in San Francisco already exist.

robMezli, San Francisco

Mezli offers Mediterranean-style grain bowls with a fully customizable menu, but I’m not so sure I’d call this a “restaurant.” I haven’t been, but it seems more like an upgraded vending machine than a restaurant.

Others include a pizza place in Paris called Pazzi.

robPazzi, Paris

This one seems more like a restaurant to me, but that might just be because it has indoor seating.

Some larger U.S. restaurant chains like Sweetgreen also have plans for fully automated restaurants next year, but I wouldn’t count on fully automated restaurants being standard anytime soon.

First, there’s really no such thing as a fully automated restaurant. Anytime there’s a software or hardware problem, someone needs to be there to fix it... and there’s always a software problem.

Restaurants need to make orders and deliveries. Someone needs to make those orders, take deliveries, and stock the kitchen.

Restaurants need cleaning and regular building maintenance. Someone needs to do that.

Kitchen equipment needs maintenance, repair, and eventual replacement. Someone needs to do that too. Even a vending machine needs to be refilled.

Of course, we can imagine robots will be able to do all that for us in the distant future, but we’re far from that right now.

Moreover, while a fully automated system might make sense for a fast-food restaurant like McDonald's or Burger King, it’s unlikely that people are going to want to order food from robot waitstaff at restaurants.

When you go to a restaurant where you’re seated and given a menu, you might have questions. 

Lots of people, including yours truly, want recommendations. And there’s no doubt technology is far from robots with opinions about food.

In fact, they’re not even that great at getting around just yet.

The robot servers at Izakaya 68 are manufactured by a Chinese company called Pudu Robotics and distributed in the U.S. by New York City-based robotics firm WowRobee. Pudu manufactures a wide range of service-based robots used in restaurants, malls, hospitals, retirement centers, and elsewhere.

In fact, if you’ve seen an autonomous mobile robot at a hospital, you’ve pretty much seen a robot restaurant server. Aethon’s TUG autonomous mobile robot is now used in more than 150 hospitals nationwide.

And the restaurant robot server works essentially the same way.

You give your food order to human waitstaff first. They bring you drinks, soy sauce, and extra plates and utensils if needed. Then the robo-server brings you the food.

The robot does a pretty good job getting around, but its movements are not fluid at all. It might remind you of Wall-E, but it moves around very much like a Roomba, so it has a long way to go.

Nevertheless, expectations are high. According to Allied Market Research, the hospitality robot market could expand from about $300 million in 2020 to $2 billion by 2030, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.5%. And that's pretty much on par with expectations from the global cannabis market.

I expect to see more and more of these robot servers popping up around the country, but at the end of the day, a human server is simply better and more efficent. A human server can get the food to you faster and would be there to ask if you need anything else. I can see them becoming much better in the future, but for now, these robot servers seem to be mostly a gimmick.

Until next time,
Luke Burgess Signature
Luke Burgess

Luke’s analysis and market research reach hundreds of thousands of investors every day. Through his work with the Outsider Club and Junior Mining Trader, Luke helps investors in leveraging the future supply-demand imbalance that he believes could be key to a cyclical upswing in the hard asset markets. For more on Luke, go to his editor’s page.

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