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More foodservice workers will be replaced by robots and machines soon

Robotic service is one of the trends that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated. The demand for AI-powered automatic services comes from both consumers and businesses.

 

Consumers get used to automatic services

 

Many restaurant chains and (food) retail businesses have already rolled out contactless self-service through mobile apps, kiosks, and facial/palm recognition technology. When the lockdown was in place, restaurant and foodservice facilities only operated for pickup or delivery services. Many consumers tried curbside pickup and delivery service of their favorite eateries for the first time because of the lockdown. During the pandemic, the delivery business was one of the few sectors that got a boost. 

 

Now that consumers have experienced the convenience of contactless self-service, they may continue using it in future purchases. As machines, instead of real human beings, often perform those automatic services, it is safe to predict that machines will soon replace more foodservice workers.  

 

Businesses prefer robotics over workers

 

The foodservice industry quickly responded to the increasing demand for contactless self-service. Restaurants introduced new store designs with double- or even triple-drive-thru lanes, conveyor belt delivery, and food lockers for pickup orders. In some cases, restaurants got rid of the dining rooms and focused solely on delivery and pickup services. In June 2021, McDonald’s started testing AI-powered drive-thru service at 10 Chicago restaurants, where machines, but not workers, took orders from consumers. 

 

Besides meeting consumers’ demand for automatic service, the labor shortage challenge facing the industry and the rising labor costs are two other factors pushing the hospitality industry to go after machines instead of real human beings. The bottom-line is machines can work around the clock without asking for overtime pay or sick leaves. We have already seen burger-flipping robots, robotic baristas, robotic woks, delivery robots, and more in various foodservice facilities. 

 

So, the question is not about whether machines will replace foodservice workers. Instead, we shall think about what positions will be substituted and how soon robots will take over those jobs. 


Note: This article was published in the Hospitality News (magazine) in November 2021; The picture was downloaded from CHRON.com.

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