Robot waiters have become all the rage in countries as far as America, and as close as Spain and that’s got us wondering – is Malta next?
Sorry to break it to all you AI enthusiasts out there, but according to some of Malta’s very own restaurateurs, it’s a big no.
Before we get into that though, let’s discuss what these robots are doing and why (or at least, if) they’re edging their way to food service domination.
These eerily human AI bots catapulted into use as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic due to the widespread labour shortages that the industry has been experiencing. However, in Spain they were used before the pandemic as a marketing tool.
This issue led to a plethora of problems, including longer waiting times, frustrated customers and increasingly over-tired staff.
That’s where the robots came in and proved pretty useful. Not only did they address labour shortages but they also reduced human-to-human contact, helping to keep the virus relatively at bay.
Robot waiters don’t work independently though, so they won’t replace waiters and waitresses. They primarily deliver food to customers and take away dirty dishes.
One specific Spanish robot specialises in pouring “the perfect pint”.
Nonetheless, they’re evolving.
Some of these robots have facial recognition software to identify customers and an in-built navigation system. They recognise voice commands and have their own personality and charm.
Some even display emotions through a facial video display.
Right about now you may be wondering why this doesn’t seem to be in the cards for Malta.
Well, Nicholas Diacono, who is currently running the kitchen at Tico Tico and has been described as a “culinary genius”, believes that it takes away from the warm and human dining experience.
“I think this is more for theatre than practicality, and it takes away from the product. I’ve never enjoyed sparklers and over-the-top plating because it takes away from the quality of the food,” he said.
“At the end of the day you’re there to eat quality food not to watch a robot doing tricks. However, I don’t know enough about these machines to comment further,” he continued.
He did admit, however, that he’d want to visit a restaurant that uses these machines to help him “understand the way they work”.
He also said that they might kick off because of the “insane staff crisis happening at the moment”, but it all depends on the initial and running costs of the AI.
Meanwhile, veteran goalie, restaurant owner and Netflix featured Justin Haber shared a similar opinion.
“I hope it doesn’t happen,” Haber bluntly admitted.
“I don’t even think it will happen. People go to a restaurant to wind down and enjoy the experience which includes the food as well as the environment,” he continued.
“In my restaurant we value the interaction between the clients and the staff – the humanity aspect is essential.”
Yet, like Diacono, he’s more than willing to try out one of these restaurants, but just as a “one-off experience”.
He also doesn’t believe that it’s a viable option during the pandemic because of the costs. It’s probably too expensive to buy these machines during a time when business is slow because everyone is financially suffering, he explained.
The consensus seems to be pretty clear, it could be a fun experience but it’s doubtful that it would serve as a longtime staple on our little island.
Would you want to be served by robots?