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This restaurant chain started using robot servers and it actually improved tips

Sergio’s Restaurant chain has deployed the robots in all six of its locations.

servi robot carrying orders at sergio's restaurant in florida
Image: Sergio's Restaurant

The conversation around robots in the workplace often drifts to how they will replace human workers, but that’s not what one restaurant chain in Florida found when they deployed a $1,000-a-month robot to take over some serving duties.

The New York Times spoke to the CEO of Sergio’s Restaurant chain about his decision to use Softbank’s Servi robot and found that it actually increased tips for their human servers.

That’s not at all what opponents of automation say will happen, and that’s because of how the chain implemented the robots. See, instead of fully replacing servers, the restaurant uses the Servi robot to bring food from the kitchen to the dining area, and then the human servers place the food in front of the customers.

That means fewer bodies in the kitchen to get in the way of the cook staff. Crucially, it also means that servers are no longer overworked running back and forth into the kitchens. That gives them more time to talk to customers and ensure they have everything they need, which created higher tips overall.

The robotic server is called Servi, and it comes from a partnership between Softbank and Bear Robotics. The robot formerly known as Penny, rebranded to Servi near the end of 2020, as Softbank geared up for a wide deployment in Japan. Check it out in the video from Bear Robotics below.

Pretty impressive stuff. The video above shows how Servi can navigate around the restaurant, although it’s not quite the same as how Sergio’s Restaurant deploys the robot as the video shows the customers taking their own food instead of being helped by a human server.

The chain says it ordered the Servi robots when it was faced with a labor shortage near the beginning of the pandemic. Now the robots are in every one of its six locations, and it seems they’re there to stay.

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