robots?  Some companies find that only humans can do this job

robots? Some companies find that only humans can do this job

Robots are the future. However, this will not be soon in some sectors.

Companies are trying out automated machines for serving food in restaurants, delivering home orders or doing housework in stores, in part in the hope of easing labor shortages. But some of these consumer-facing bots are not in the testing phase.

Among the disappointed,

FedEx corp.

A spokeswoman said last month that she was stalling Roxo, the delivery bot for the last mile, to prioritize several “near-term opportunities.” Also in October, Amazon.com said it was ending field testing of Scout, its home delivery robot, after learning that some aspects of its “unique delivery experience” were not “meeting customers’ needs,” a company spokeswoman said. .

And during the summer,

DoorDash a company

She said she was closing her business at Chowbotics — best known for Sally, the salad-making robot — about 18 months after she bought it.

Amazon Scouts, wandered the streets of Atlanta last year before the company halted its field tests.


picture:

Mark Hertzberg/Zuma Press

“While we have gained valuable insights into how to better serve this market, we have concluded that our current approach does not meet our very high thresholds for continued investment,” a DoorDash spokesperson said.

Companies have expressed hopes that the growing diversity of robots can help them not only face the shortage of workers, But accelerating labor-intensive tasks, improving customer service by reducing the number of things human workers have to do and, as an added bonus, positioning their brands as innovative and future-oriented.

Some of these efforts have been successful, at least in part. Others have been discontinued, leading companies to return to technology that is less sci-fi, but can be deployed more quickly and cost-effectively.

Initial costs and uncertain returns

Reflect on the story of Patty, the robotic waiter at a fast-food chain

burgerfi

Presented by International Inc. Patty was put to the test in Jupiter, Florida, last December.

“Leveraging technology is a key factor in guest and employee happiness,” said Carl Goodhue, the company’s chief technology officer, while announcing the new server.

Almost a year later, Patty is no longer rolling around the floors of BurgerFi. While many customers have enjoyed being served by the computer-operated waitress, the cost of deploying bates at all of the chain’s 120 restaurants will ultimately be too high for relatively marginal value, Mr. Goddio said this week. He said the human servers were happy to have a robot to help her on the bus boards, but Patty didn’t speed things up enough to turn more tables dramatically.

“It turns out to be a huge investment for something that is really a couple extra,” said Mr. Goodhue. Instead, BurgerFi is investing in customer service technology, such as self-order kiosks and a phone answering bot called Becky, he added.

Despite mixed reviews, about 121,000 robots were sold in the service sector last year to perform tasks from transportation to surgery to vacuuming, according to the International Federation of Robotics, an industry organization that conducts an annual census of robots based on data from global sellers.

Some companies are satisfied with their bots doing the job. White Castle, for example, has Flippy 2, the latest version of a robotic chef, working in the kitchens of four of its more than 350 fast food restaurants, and plans to bring the robots to 100 more locations. Besides french fries, Flippi also makes onion rings.

Wakefern Food Corp.’s ShopRite, a regional grocery chain, uses Tally robots in 20 of its stores and plans to roll out more in the coming months. Made by Simbe Robotics Inc. Tally travels the aisles in search of inventory issues, such as items in the wrong place or empty shelves.

ShopRite was happy with Tally, who scans the shelves to check for misplaced items or bare shelves.


picture:

Simbe Robotics

needs improvement

But other companies are rethinking robot assistants.

Chili’s Grill & BarAnd the

The casual restaurant chain, owned by Brinker International, Inc., in August halted the launch of Rita’s, which had seated guests and served food, moved tables and sang “Happy Birthday.” The decision came just four months after Chili’s expanded Rita’s from 10 pilot locations to 51 other restaurants.

“We’re going to stop some of those projects that we didn’t have a line of sight to bring back on the business,” Brinker CEO Kevin Hochman said during an earnings call at the time. Mr Hochman, who took the top position in June, said he was looking instead at investing in things like kitchen equipment that would reduce cooking times and turn tables faster, and an improved user interface for the mobile ordering site.

A spokeswoman for Brinker said Chili’s had hoped Rita would ease the burden on the waiting staff, but found the robots were too slow to keep up with the service. It added that all Ritas will be removed from Chili’s this month.

Juan Higueros, co-founder and chief operating officer of Rita-manufacturer Bear Robotics, said the company was surprised to have Chili’s pause the technology as research indicated it was well received by employees, adding that a Chili’s employee published a report this week. TikTok video for workers Goodbye comedy! for their android friend.

I haven’t seen good examples of companies successfully deploying robotic systems in low-margin, audience-oriented settings.


— Matt Bean, University of California, Santa Barbara

“We hope that we will have the opportunity to continue the progress we have been making jointly in the near future,” said Mr. Higueros.

Matt Bean, assistant professor in the Technology Management Program at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said the abandoned tests highlight the difficulties in balancing the costs of robots against their benefit.

Professor Penny said robots are still prone to messing with essential tasks and often require supervision in liquid environments such as shop floors or sidewalks. Their success in public spaces has largely been limited to high-margin businesses in predictable and contained spaces — room service in luxury hotels or mixing cocktails in bars, for example — where robots are often a novelty that companies can charge for. Additional to it, he said.

“I haven’t seen good examples of companies successfully deploying robotic systems in a low-margin crowd-facing environment,” Professor Bain said.

McDonald‘s

CEO Chris Kempzinke in July told investors and analysts that he believes robots are not a viable solution to labor demand in the vast majority of restaurants.

“The economy isn’t running out, you don’t have to have a footprint and there’s a lot of infrastructure investment that you need to make around your facilities,” he said.

McDonald’s invests in robots at the software level, however, they are testing Automatic voice recognition who can fill For those who take the system from the people in its entrances.

Overcoming human obsessions

Despite companies’ enthusiasm for robots—with limitless hours, no sick days, bathroom breaks, or whimpers—customers aren’t necessarily happy to see them when they’re expecting someone. When Chili’s was published in May video Rita On her Facebook page, some customers were upset. “Stop trying to erase people!” One reviewer wrote. Nearly 60% of Chili’s diners surveyed said Rita did not improve their overall experience at the restaurant, Brinker spokeswoman said, adding that Rita’s job was to facilitate staff jobs while entertaining dinner, not to get Jobs of human staff.

Share your thoughts

We are open to comments on some CMO Today articles and would love to hear from you in the conversation below. Would you like to see more robot assistants in your favorite stores, restaurants and hotels? Let us know in the comments.

Debbie Roxarzad, founder and CEO of Las Vegas-based restaurant chain Rachel’s Kitchen, said she encountered some customer resistance when she first introduced the Servi — another machine from Bear Robotics — at her restaurant in Henderson, Nevada in December 2021, when she was having trouble finding staff .

She said the discomfort, though, quickly dissipated.

“Regulars now see that he has not replaced any of the team members behind the counter – if anything, they see the team members as more relaxed and happy to have that extra pair,” said Ms Roxarzad. .

Ms. Roxarzade said Rachel’s Kitchen staff primarily use Servi to share the load when bringing food and drink to a large table or multiple tables. She added that the servers were glad she didn’t have to walk back and forth to the kitchen as much, and spend more time on guests.

But the staff also had to learn to overcome Servi’s quirks. For example, Servi isn’t great at relocating soiled trays to the dish sink. “She doesn’t open the doors,” said Mrs. Roxarzad.

Servi also can’t go out of the house because the sun is interfering with his navigation system. So Ms. Roxarzade cannot use it on sites that accommodate a lot of clients in yard areas, she said.

Outdoor hazards are a huge problem for delivery robots in particular. The internet is filled with videos of coolers on wheels driving themselves into potholes, getting stuck in the snow, crashing, getting robbed and, in one case, being obliterated by a freight train.

Some people have also raised concerns that delivery robots could block wheelchair access on sidewalks or get in the way of humans, prompting local authorities to restrict or ban their use. Toronto, for example, last December banned delivery bots. A spokeswoman said the ban will remain in place until the Ontario Department of Transportation establishes a pilot program to research the effects of robots and the city council decides whether to sign up.

However, these roving robots do come with advantages, according to Jeremy Sherk, co-owner of Conan Pizza in Austin, Texas. In April, he began using Cyan Robotics Inc.’s Coco robots. To serve deep-dish pizza around the South Austin area. He said the robots, as it turned out, were much slower than delivery drivers, and often found it difficult to cross wide roads.

Jeremy Sherk of Conan Pizza in Austin found things to like in Cocos, even though they were slower than the delivery drivers.


picture:

Jeremy Sherk

“My biggest pie, which we call ‘Savage,’ weighs about 6 pounds,” said Mr. Sherk. “It’s not really good for a 20-minute bounce.”

In August, a spokeswoman said the robotics company halted operations in Austin due to supply problems.

But Mr. Sherk said he would still use Cocos if they were available, for one big reason: They were great ads.

“It was all about getting people talking, and it worked,” he said. “I can say I have the oldest pizzeria in Austin with the latest delivery technology. I thought it was pretty good.”

write to Katie Deighton at katie.deighton@wsj.com

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