Bear Robotics’ autonomous serving robots address restaurant labor shortages

This autonomous serving robot is helping to address a labor shortage.
Image: Bear Robotics

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every industry in a different way. Restaurants were hit hard during the lockdown phase when consumers couldn’t dine-in. Although most restaurants are now reopening, there is still a shortage of workers to staff them in some locations. Japan is one area that is experiencing this issue.

Now, SoftBank is turning to a high-tech solution to address it. The tech firm is working with Bear Robotics to bring the company’s Servi robot to restaurants and other hospitality venues in the country. The automated server will help address labor shortages while also making dining experiences safer for customers.

Robot Waiter

In today’s tech-filled world, plenty of jobs can be filled by a robot. That includes serving in restaurants and bars. Bear Robotics is far from being the first company to introduce a serving robot. However, its Servi system has drawn significant interest from SoftBank, helping boost its prominence.

Unlike some humanoid serving robots, Servi is much more, well, robotic. The tower-shaped bot rolls around on wheels while transporting food to customers at their table.

It is equipped with LIDAR technology to detect objects and autonomously navigate around them. This is obviously very helpful in the restaurant world where the environment is constantly changing and moving. Servi can also be controlled manually with a tablet.

The robot operates for eight to 12 hours on a single charge, giving it plenty of power for a long shift.

Servi is designed to be a comprehensive system for all types of restaurants during every phase of their operations. The bot works in several modes, including bussing, drink delivery, and patrol. This gives restaurant owners the ability to maximize the system’s efficiency and deliver high-quality service to customers in response to evolving needs.

Together, Bear and SoftBank will work to continue developing the Servi platform while also rolling it out to restaurants in Japan. A press release also mentions the United States and Korea as target markets. However, it’s unclear what adoption would look like in countries where labor shortages are less of an issue.

Restaurants and other hospitality businesses can lease Servi with a three-year plan for $950 per month. That’s fairly affordable considering the cost of hiring a human employee relative to the number of hours Servi can work.

Solving Problems

Japan’s labor shortage isn’t a new issue. The country has struggled with the problem due to a variety of factors. Things like a declining birth rate, an aging population, and, of course, COVID-19 have all disrupted the country’s economy.

Using robots to replace and augment human labor is a viable approach in many industries. Systems like Servi aren’t perfect. Nor can they replicate everything that humans are capable of.

Even so, they are better than nothing. Servi certainly has the potential to help business owners overcome the ongoing labor shortage while boosting customer satisfaction at the same time.

It will be interesting to see how other countries where labor isn’t an issue react to the system. With the right marketing strategy, Servi could catch on. However, it is less likely—at least for the next decade or so.


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