A restaurant in the Netherlands has introduced new robot waiters as a way to reduce human-to-human contact in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The red-and-white robots will greet customers, serve food and pick up used dishes from dinners’ tables at the Royal Palace Restaurant in the town of Renesse, according to the Associated Press.
The as-yet-unnamed robots say “hello and welcome,” in and they wear little scarves to seem less creepy.
“They help us with work we do,” says Leah Hu, whose family owns the Royal Palace. “We are often busy and cleaning tables and the robots give us an extra hand. We are not disappearing. We are still here. They will always need people in this industry.”
Restaurants in the Netherlands have been closed for months during the pandemic and many are beginning to reopen, but with limits on the number of guests allowed. Robot servers, of course, can not get the coronavirus, but they also are not likely to be able to assist patrons with food allergies or get that high chair for that party of seven with a squirming baby.
It’s been a roughly few months for the food service industry, with restaurants losing about 5.5 million jobs in April alone. It seems unlikely that robot waiters are going to catch on in American eateries any time soon, but they have been common in restaurants in China for several years now.
It is worth noting that the “machine people” that serve food in China’s restaurants are more of a novelty than a way to be more efficient; most of the robot waiters apparently stuck at their jobs.