HONOLULU (KHON2) — A local restaurant owner frustrated with staffing shortages has hired a pair of new employees. These two don’t get paid, and they never have to take a break.
It’s a scene straight out of the Pixar classic film WALL-E, robot servers, or really server’s assistants, making their way to tables at Ruby Tuesday in Moanalua to help load and unload dishes.
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“Staffing is such a problem now. Everything from managers down to servers and kitchen help cooks so this really helps our servers out,” Ruby Tuesday owner Rick Nakashima said.
Servers that KHON2 spoke with say it takes some time to get used to but that the robots do help. They’re still working on nicknames, but the R2 Eat 2 follows sensors on the ceiling to map their path. Destinations are coordinated by the staff, as the robots will even pick up dishes from a table without the server.
“They’re able to really speed service instead of carrying things, clean out, dirty back, the robot does all of the work for them,” Nakashima said.
Customers that spoke with KHON2 seem to think they’re fun.
“Gee just being introduced to it, what else are we going to be faced with, that’s awesome. Technology!” Ruby Tuesday customer Lil Montayre said.
On the other hand, some others are concerned about robots taking people’s jobs.
The Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations says that about 60,000 food service workers are in the islands this year.
Nakashima says all of his positions have not been filled, and the robots will not replace employees.
“We’re not taking any jobs away; we’re actually being able to service more people and basically do more covers in a day because of those two robots,” he said.
He adds that these are the first of their kind in the islands, along with his pair at his Gyu-Kaku restaurant in Kapolei.
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Despite the $16,000 price tag, he expects them to come to a restaurant near you soon.
“It’s going to take off, there’s no question,” Nakashima added.