Daily Bread for 5.10.22: A Server Robot for a Short-Staffed Restaurant

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy, with a chance of an afternoon thundershower, and a high of 88.  Sunrise is 5:36 AM and sunset 8:06 PM for 14h 29m 48s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 64.3% of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Public Works Committee meets at 6 PM.

On this day in 28 BC, Han dynasty astronomers observe a sunspot during the reign of Emperor Cheng of Han, one of the earliest dated sunspot observations in China.

Natalie Yahr reports For shortstaffed BBQ spot, Servi is the droid they’re looking for:

Deployed in the West Towne Mall barbecue restaurant late last month, she may be the first robot working inside a Madison restaurant. Other food delivery robots began roaming Madison streets a year and a half ago. That’s when the University of Wisconsin-Madison rolled out a fleet of Starship Delivery robots — which my colleague Rob Thomas described as looking like “a cross between a picnic basket and a Stormtrooper” — to send takeout orders from dining halls to hungry students and faculty. 


Like many restaurants, Doc’s Smokehouse has struggled to hire enough employees following COVID-induced closures in 2020, but Jimmy Hall, general manager of the Madison location, said the robot isn’t intended to reduce the number of human workers. 

“It’s not replacing anyone. It is only reducing the amount of steps, literally and figuratively,” Hall said. Before the robot, every time a chef yelled, “Hands!” a server would rush to the kitchen to carry out the food while it’s hot, Hall said. That’s especially important for barbecue, as the meats are smoked overnight and then held in a 151-degree oven, beginning to cool down as soon as they’re removed and sliced. 

“Time is of the essence,” Hall said. “We are in a constant state of being shortstaffed … so (BBQ-1) allows us to maintain our quality control.”

If the robot can save a server 60 steps with one order, or perhaps 1,000 steps in a day, Hall said, “that’s a win for us.” He knows staff are already stretched thin, picking up more shifts than they want during the week in order to help out. The robot wasn’t his idea, but he likes it. “It’s nice to see an employer that’s willing to invest in making things easier for the people that are here,” Hall said.

Bear Robotics makes different versions of the Servi robot. They’re not suited for every establishment, as they’re pricey for smaller shops. There is, however, sure to be a growing demand for automated assistance. As the labor market changes (and technology improves) workplaces and stores will see more robots in support roles.

Giant Landslide in Alaska Caught on Camera:

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