When the idea of robot waiters was recently floated by the President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Marisa Xuereb, many may have taken it with a pinch of salt. But should we be seriously considering robot waiters as an innovative concept that could take client experience to new heights?
A couple of months ago the Malta Hotels & Restaurants Association (MHRA) spoke about COVID-19 having brought about a shortage in waiters as both local and foreign waiters sought other jobs or left the country. And this set the ball rolling on the discussion of whether we should really start considering robot waiting service.
Robot waiters. What? Why?
We’ve seen this in movies or read it in books, but now robot waiters are real in countries like the Netherlands, Japan and the US. Now Malta is seriously looking into the possibility.
In the Netherlands, robot waiters were introduced to reduce human contact because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In China, the robot service even extended itself to robots cooking complex meals.
The main complaint that revolves around the waiter robot innovation is that it reduces the human element, but what could this possibility also positively mean for Malta’s catering industry?
Lower costs, more investment
Some countries like China and Japan have been testing the ground for robot waiters since 2018 and the restaurants that have used it are speaking about raised efficiency and lower labour costs.
If we look at Malta’s situation, a normal full-time waiter’s yearly wage would cost the restaurant around €11.5k a year. Translate that to 3 full-time waiters and the restaurant would see a reduction in costs of more than €34k per year, if they invested in robot waiters instead. This money can then be invested in the provision of better quality food, for example, or a wider range of restaurant amenities for clients to enjoy.
Stand out and shout original
With more than 2,000 registered restaurants, being innovative in your catering business has become more difficult; Malta & Gozo’s abundance of restaurants makes it harder to stand out.
Everyone will want to try out your robot waiter service one day or another, and there are 500,000 of us; let alone the thousands of tourists visiting each year who would see it as a tourist highlight.
Weighing things out
When weighing things out, robot waiters obviously reduce costs and eliminate human error. But like all things, balance is crucial. Robot waiters might not make sense for more exclusive dining restaurants, for instance.
Also, in some places like in the US and the Netherlands, some restaurants have struck a balance between robot waiters who do the more generic chores of delivering food to tables or registering orders, and human waiters who would explain the menu in detail and answer clients’ specific queries.
Different restaurants have different needs, just like different robots have different options. The Chamber of Commerce President’s comment definitely marks a fire-starter on the topic. Why not? Malta can really study this option well as a way to address local restaurants’ different needs.
What would your first reaction be if you knew there is a local restaurant offering a robot waiting service? Would you want to go? Let us know what you think.