HONOLULU (KHON2) — According to state data, roughly 8,000 workers are still unaccounted for statewide in the leisure, food, and hospitality industry from pre-pandemic times.

However, some restaurants and hotels across the globe are finding something else to pick up the slack.

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USA Robotic Services CEO Ted Davenport and USA Robotic Services President Mike Kometani are helping the industry by introducing robots that can improve productivity while keeping employees in their jobs.

“We felt it would help our industry and not take jobs but to be more efficient, bring up productivity, keep your waiters in the restaurant, not having them walking 100 yards back and forth, these guys do the hard work,” Davenport said while standing next to the delivery robot.

It definitely creates better productivity for the restaurant and hotels or even hospitals, nursing homes where people are running around, mail rooms, and offices – we’re looking at doing an office 70,000 square feet in Pittsburgh sometime in a few months because they can’t find people to deliver mail, deliver this, or deliver that. They [robots] do the work nobody wants to do.”

Ted Davenport, USA Robotic Services CEO

Kometani explained that the robots are more for restaurants and they’re there to make the wait time more efficient.

“They’re going to take a lot of the running back and forth from the kitchen to the table away so that the waiters can be at the tables servicing their customers much better than running back and forth to the kitchen,” said Kometani.

Hawaii Restaurant Association Executive Director Sheryl Matsuoka added that the feedback she gets from servers that already have robots in the restaurants is that they are walking fewer steps and making more tips.

“They have more time to make sure the customer is happy, and customer service has elevated in the restaurants that have the robots,” said Matsuoka.

KHON2 went to Ruby Tuesday Hawaii in Moanalua to see how their two robots were doing, and how customers and staff felt about them.

“I was amazed first of all but I like the one-on-one customer service with an actual human,” commented one of the customers at Ruby Tuesday, where robots delivered food to her table.

Another woman said she was concerned for workers and didn’t want to see computers take over more jobs.

Emanuel Aquino, who works at Ruby Tuesday, said having the robots helped bring him back to work after elbow surgery sooner because he didn’t have to do as much heavy lifting.

“They’re always on time; we don’t need to feed them,” said Aquino. “They just charge themselves on their own charger, and they don’t give any lip and don’t talk back”

Employers could see benefits to artificial intelligence robots by not having to pay health insurance, not worrying about sick days or vacation time, or paying them either.

The use of robots in the hospitality industry is a topic of concern that is being closely monitored.

The robot is seen as Ruby Tuesday’s costs between $15,000 and $18,000. However, restaurants can also lease robots too.

Davenport said the robots pay for themselves in roughly four months.

Hotels in Hawaii haven’t rolled out any robots just yet. Robot industry leaders said they could be very beneficial for staff in housekeeping, room service, and serving; allowing the robot to deliver smaller items like toothbrushes, a towel, clean sheets, or extra amenities instead of having a staff member walk long distances through the hotel to deliver an item.

UNITE HERE Local 5 Financial Secretary Eric Gill is concerned about how this innovation will affect the industry’s workforce.

“We’ve negotiated a contract that makes them work through it with us when they’re doing a technological change that affects our work,” said Gill.

Mufi Hannemann, CEO of Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, said in a statement:

“Robotics and other innovations are the cutting edge in many industries. But these innovations should never replace the human touch and aloha that makes a visitor experience in Hawaii truly special. Robotics should serve as a quality complement to the men and women who comprise our industry.”

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To see previous coverage by KHON2 on robot servers in Hawaii, click here.