Would you like to be served by a robot waiter? The head of Malta’s largest business lobby group has urged local restaurants to embrace this technology in light of a serious staff shortage.
“The key to recovery is productivity, which means doing more with fewer people,” Chamber of Commerce president Marisa Xuereb said when interviewed on TVAM yesterday morning.
“I repeat this everyday at work – we must learn to do more with fewer people. Bringing more people from overseas if you can’t find them locally is an easy solution; after all our labour market is small and it isn’t hard to find people from abroad to fill in the gaps.”
“However, the reality is that it’s important for businesses to check whether they have waste in their business in terms of the number of people they employ, and whether some jobs can be carried out without employing more people.”
Xuereb went on to ask why pizzerias need to employ waiters to take diners’ orders and serve them food when orders can be taken on a tablet and delivered via an automatic trolley.
“We’re talking about driverless cars; is it so hard to imagine an automatic trolley delivering food to a table? I think this is how we need to think.”
In April, the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) warned that several restaurants are facing staff shortages because some foreign workers left the country since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic while local workers found other jobs during lockdown and are reluctant to return to their previous employment.
Xuereb has become the first high-profile person in Malta to suggest robot workers as a solution, but restaurants in other countries – such as China, Spain, the Netherlands and the US – have already implemented them.
Also interviewed on TVAM was UĦM CEO Josef Vella, who argued that such technologies cannot be stopped but that the local workforce must be adequately trained to take up the new jobs that their widespread implementation would require.
“If a restaurant does without a waiter, it won’t mean they’ll employ fewer people because they’ll need to employ people with different skillsets behind the automatic trolley,” he said. “We need to ask ourselves if our workforce is prepared to take up these new jobs.”