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Post-Covid Restaurant Staff Shortages Could Accelerate Automation And Robots

There are some people who it’s only a matter of time before robots take over the world. The latest news from the restaurant industry is likely to fuel their fire and have them saying, “I told you so.”

According to many in the food industry, they’ve been having a difficult time staffing restaurants when they reopen after being closed due to the pandemic. Food service workers have either moved away, found employment elsewhere or are changing industries.

“Many of the people who aren’t coming back are looking for other lines of work,” SevenRooms CEO Joel Montaniel told Restaurant Dive.

“We can’t get people in quick enough. We can’t get them properly trained. They’re, in some cases, not as good as their predecessors because their predecessors have more experience,” Institute of Culinary Education’s Dean of Restaurant and Hospitality Management at Rick Camac said. “We’re bringing in some people who are pure entry level and we’re trying to teach them the business of hospitality and without enough time to do adequate training.”

 The a shortage of workers has them considering automating services and using robots for jobs normally done by humans. As a result, startups and companies in the robot automation space are optimistic about what the future holds.

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“There is a temporary labor issue because everyone is hiring at the same time. But the bottom line is there aren’t enough people in the labor pool,” Miso Robotics co-founder and president Buck Jordan told Crunchbase. Miso is best known for its burger-flipping robot Flippy.

In addition to bots like Flippy that flip burgers, toss salad and make bowls, there are two new restaurants  by Nala Robotics opening in Illinois that are using automated kitchens to cook food, Pymnts.com reported.

“If there is a burger joint in New York that has a great following and wants to expand, we can upload that recipe in Naperville, and customers will get the exact same burger,” Nala Robotics President and Co-founder Ajay Sunkara told Restaurant Hospitality. On the West Cost there’s a robot restaurant focused on Chinese food that will be opening.

The phenomenon of robots replacing restaurant workers has investors like SoftBank and Khosla Ventures taking big leaps into the space. Future Acres CEO Suma Reddy welcomes the optimism. His company is working on the carry robot, which uses artificial intelligence to transport crops.

“We see Carry as a kind of harvesting sidekick for workers. It’s an autonomous harvesting companion,” Reddy said. “What it can do in the real world is transport up to 500 lbs. of crops in all terrain and all weather. It can increase production efficiency by up to 30 percent, which means it pays for itself in only 80 days.”

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