The world may not be ready for restaurant robots — yet. At least two restaurants in Guangzhou, China have fired their teams of artificially intelligent robot waiters after discovering the machines were unable to keep up with their human staff.
“The robots weren’t able to carry soup or other food steady and they would frequently break down. The boss has decided never to use them again,” an employee at one of the restaurants told the Worker’s Daily.
The humanoid bots cost just over $7,700 and require maintenance and electrical bills of a few hundred bucks a year. That kind of cost-saving had the regular employees concerned about their jobs, but it was the robots themselves who wound up getting pink-slipped.
A third restaurant has let go off all but one of its robot staff, though it’s not totally clear whether it was actually a better worker than the others, or it was kept on staff for PR purposes.
“The robots can attract plenty of customers, but they definitely can’t reduce the need for human labor,” one restaurant’s owner said.
The job of waiting tables has long been seen as vulnerable to automation, due to its frequently repetitive nature, but these firings definitely represent a setback. Sure, it’s easy to talk about replacing jobs, but in practice, these robots proved little more effective than the mechanical waiters of the 1970s or 80s. It’s that damn soup!