The owners of a restaurant employing 4 robot servers reveal the drawbacks – and explain why humans are crucial

  • Restaurant owners employing four robot servers say machines won't replace all their human servers.

  • They said their robots had drawbacks, such as running away from customers wearing lots of jewelry.

  • One robot, Amy, chatted too much to guests, so they had to switch off her interactive functions.

Amy, Ella, Will, and Josh work in a restaurant as servers. They bring food to tables, interact with guests, and from time to time, they roll away to recharge their batteries.

All four of them are robots, and they're the main attraction at Robotazia, a restaurant in Milton Keynes, UK.

Even so, Robotazia's owners, Joy Gittens and Mark Swannell, told Insider they'd never replace all their human servers with machines, because the robots have a few notable drawbacks.

They run away from guests wearing lots of jewelry

The robots turn around and roll away from guests wearing lots of metal jewelry, which has something to do with signals being reflected off the metal.

"Amy" the robot inside Robotazia
Amy.Kate Duffy/Insider

"They'll go over to the table for delivery but not let people take their food off the tray, and then turn away," Gittens said.

Gittens and Swannell said they have to first check if customers are wearing lots of jewelry in order for them to "get the best experience."

They chat too much

Amy has an interactive function that allows her to respond to customers' questions. "We turned that off because you would never get a delivery done as she would stay there having conversations," Gittens said.

The robots, which were manufactured in Japan, also spoke in "an odd sort of English which didn't quite make sense," Swannell said.

Amy, who served my meal, spoke with a robotic American accent, but she didn't ask any questions or respond to mine. Instead, she said "bon appetit" before heading back to her base.

They give up work when they're hungry

When the robots need to recharge, they make a quick exit.

"Ella" the robot inside Robotazia
Ella.Kate Duffy/Insider

"If they have had enough and they feel that their charge is going low, they tell you they need to recharge," Gittens said. "No matter what they're doing, they go off and put themselves at their set points," she said, referring to their charging stations.

Amy did this during one of the restaurant's busiest Saturdays, Gittens said. Gittens said she made light of the situation by telling guests that "at least she knows when she needs a recharge."

The robots are also capable of displaying certain emotions. For example, if a customer gets too close, a tear appears on the robot's face.

They can't perform some basic tasks

The robots can deliver food on trays but they can't clear tables. They also can't check if a person is old enough to buy alcohol.

Further, they can't clean themselves or change their batteries. Gittens and Swannell employ four humans, one for each robot, to keep them in working order.

The robots are more expensive to employ than human servers, Swannell said. This is partly down to maintenance. Swannell said he fixes or tweaks parts on the robots every Tuesday.

They're not human

Swannell and Gittens say they value their human servers. Robotazia's website says "people are at the core of our business and the hospitality industry."

Gittens said: "Human engagement is still a wonderful thing to have. It's the warmth of that person saying, 'How are you? Thank you for coming to Robotazia.'"

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