Hospitality Business Magazine

Robots help out Kiwi staff shortages

Labour shortages have become so dire that some restaurants are already using robots as food runners to deliver and collect plates to and from tables.

A handful of restaurants in New Zealand are reportedly already either using Bellabot robots, or trialling them as a means to get around the lack of staff. A number of Australian restaurants are also already reportedly using them.

For Paihia’s GREEN’S – Thai Cuisine owner Vikas Sharma, who also owns GREEN’S – Indian Cuisine next door, leasing the robots has enabled him and his staff to focus more on providing better customer service.

“These robots actually work hand in hand with our staff. They are quite innovative,” he says. They’re making their mark around the world and have proved effective for contactless pick-up during COVID, says Vikas.

With the robots costing around $28,000 each to buy, he’s leasing three different versions for about $45 to $62 a day (depending on the model) and it’s helping to get him through extremely tough times hunting for staff.

“I’m using Bellabot just now and it’s really smart, delivering food from the kitchen,” he says. “It even tells customers to put their plate on its tray and returns the used plates to the kitchen,” says Vikas.

Holabot is also brilliant at food table clearance and Kettybot with its two trays is suitable for smaller cafes, he says. The robots have sensors and cameras to stop them bumping into chairs and tables. They even offer friendly chat as they make their way around the restaurant so people know they’re coming, says Vikas.

Staff accompany Bellabot at tables and are able to spend more time at with customers. The robot has become quite a novelty with customers, old and young, but can’t quite be trusted to ensure the right customer gets ‘medium’ or ‘hot’ spices. “It just saves us that extra time when we’re busy and makes life a little bit easier for the staff when we’re all working such long hours.”

Robots have become an important part of our business and are doing the job of a runner and in turn helping our staff to focus more on their customer service skills,” he says. “This is definitely a great invention, a much needed one after 18 months battling to find staff. I finally got one applicant for a position yesterday after 18 months of trying.”

Vikas says in such desperate staffing times he has to do all he can to keep his hard-earned businesses alive.