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Desperate for Workers, Restaurants Turn to Robots


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A Servi robot brings customers their food at a Sergios Restaurant in Miami.

A growing number of restaurant and hotel owners are turning to robotics during the current labor shortage. Robots dont call in sick, dont request raises, and do jobs like frying and cleaning that workers dont like.

Credit: Saul Martinez/The New York Times

When Florida gave restaurants the green light to reopen indoor dining earlier this year, restaurateurs like Carlos Gazitua were euphoric. They hoped it would resuscitate their businesses, many of which were on life-support after the shutdown. But they quickly learned it was tough to coax workers back.

"It was a crisis,'" said Mr. Gazitua, owner and chief executive of the Sergio's Restaurant chain in Florida. "We couldn't find anyone." Even a major job fair, drawing dozens of restaurant and hotel owners offering more than 1,000 jobs in May, was disastrous.

"We had 40 employers and only four people showed up!" he said. "It was bizarre — all the employers thought we were on 'Candid Camera'."

So, Mr. Gazitua turned to robotics, bringing in the Servi robot in July at one of his restaurants. Servi uses cameras and laser sensors to carry plates of food from the kitchen to tables in the dining room, where the waiter then transfers the plates to the customer's table. The robot costs $999 a month, including installation and support.

From The New York Times
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