Restaurant robot: A sign of the times for a struggling industry

Learn about the futuristic server, then help name the robot at Dick’s Wings Lakewood

Servi the robot (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Rude customers, long hours, fear of catching COVID — just some of the reasons why restaurant workers have been quitting and restaurant owners are struggling to survive.

One thing is now coming to the rescue — meet “Servi.” Manufacturer Bear Robotics calls it a “low-cost food running and bussing solution.” I call it a really cool way to get my food!

I know what you might be thinking — “Robots are taking our jobs, and taking over the world!” Well, in this case, restaurant owners say that’s not true. Servi is supporting their staff, improving efficiency and helping create a better customer experience. Plus it looks like a character in a sci-fi movie.

Watch the video below to see customers appreciating the novelty.

HELP NAME THE DICK’S WINGS LAKEWOOD ROBOT BY PUTTING YOUR SUGGESTION IN THE FORM BELOW

The robot is designed to eliminate repetitive work for employees, freeing them from the back-and-forth of bussing tables, running food and delivering drinks.

Instead of one server carrying one order — Servi, along with a server, can accommodate as many as four tables simultaneously. This allows the employees to spend more time with customers, making a better dining experience for everyone.

In fact, one Florida restaurant said the service is so good that its wait staff reported getting more tips using the robot.

Servi does more than just deliver food and help with cleaning. If a customer is having a birthday, Servi will sing! Watch the video below to hear Servi sing the birthday song.

You can clearly see that the robot doesn’t have hands or arms, so it needs people — people to load and unload the trays.

The serving robot is equipped with sensors and three cameras for safe navigation, meaning the robot will never bump into anything and it won’t spill your drinks. It’s programmed to detect tables, delivering customers their items and automatically return to its home base.

Servi gets stuck (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

Ken Elmore is a partner at Dick’s Wings and Grill Lakewood. The restaurant is one of two in the Jacksonville area using the technology.

“Not only does the robot improve food delivery, customers love it!” Elmore said. “It helps to bring a little fun back into the dining experience after two years of COVID issues. This is a big help to restaurant employees, who encounter a lot of physically demanding work.”

The robot is rented and runs about $33 a day, or about $1,000 a month. Restaurants sign a three-year lease and get the opportunity to try it without a full lifetime commitment.

Servi is the only Food Service Robot that is NSF (food safe) certified by local health departments. Elmore tells News4JAX, “This is critical. While technology is great, the high standards of food safety and sanitation must continue to be met.”

According to Statista, the number of restaurant employees in the U.S. dropped by 2.2 million from 2019 to 2021.

Talk to just about any restaurant operator and they will tell you one of their biggest struggles is finding and retaining staff.

“It’s been a tough two years,” Elmore said. “Independent restaurants are closing every day from the strains of what COVID left behind, and just when we thought there was a light at the end of the tunnel, the industry is high with record price increases, supply chain interruptions, and labor shortages. Having the server robot could help take some of the pressure off of the team, while at the same time improving our customer service.”

If you want to see the robot in action, Dick’s Wings is located at 1610 University Boulevard West in the Lakewood neighborhood of Jacksonville.

In the meantime, we want to remind you that the robot needs a name, and Dick’s Wings in Lakewood needs your help! Put your name suggestions in the form below.


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Marilyn has been Digital Director since October 2021. She supervises Jacksonville's number one news website and most trusted source for local news.