Robot Staff – Is This the Answer to the Industry-Wide Staff Shortage?

Sep 29, 2021

What has worked for restaurants pre-pandemic isn’t cutting it today.  The industry is facing an unprecedented labor crisis.  With the shortage of available workers, job openings are at a record high, and restaurant operators have experienced significant obstacles in their rehiring efforts.

To counter these difficulties, many operators are turning to more creative solutions to address their staffing shortages.  With some immediate benefits for owners, staff, and guests, restaurant automation is gaining momentum.

Looking to Restaurant Automation

Automation is answering many of the fundamental challenges operators are facing today, including:

  • Ongoing staffing issues
  • Increased labor costs
  • Standardizing operations
  • Reducing errors
  • Better consistency
  • Increased efficiency – automated robots can work 24 hours a day without rest if needed
A robot serves a woman some wine

Ten Restaurants Utilizing Robotic Automation:


  1. Spyce Kitchen, a fast-casual restaurant in Boston, serves grain and vegetable-based bowls prepped in-house before being fed into a robot called the Infinite Kitchen, “that is able to properly cook individual foods with its separate griddle, steamer, and dispenser.  The robot can make up to 350 bowls an hour and can complete an order in two to five minutes.”
  2. Cali Burger uses a high-tech kitchen assistant, Flippy. Flippy, created by Miso Robotics, assists chefs in the kitchen in preparing burgers.  It helps with cooking and flipping burgers, placing on buns, and adding toppings.  Using Flippy aims to increase the quality and consistency of products and increase food safety.
  3. CaféX offers the fastest, most advanced, fully automated café system to operate a Robotic Coffee Bar. They use assembly-line-style robots to serve coffee orders.
  4. Haidilao Hotpot – with worldwide locations features robots that take orders, prepare and deliver raw meat and fresh vegetables to customers to put into soups prepared at their tables.
  5. McDonald’s – already using digital ordering kiosks worldwide and adding automated drive-through ordering and robot fryers to boost production and efficiency. One location in Phoenix, Arizona, is entirely run by robotics.
  6. La Duni in Dallas has rented three robots from Robotech “to serve drinks, seat guests and belt out Happy Birthday if the need arises.”
  7. White Castle – Flippy works 23 hours a day (one hour is reserved for cleaning) at the fry-station of Merrillville, Indiana, White Castle location.
  8. Sugar Mediterranean Bistro in Stockton, California, was struggling with a worker shortage, so it purchased a food delivery robot to ease the burden on staff.
  9. Noodle Topia in the Metro Detroit area uses a robot that looks like a rolling bookshelf, with four trays, a touchscreen, and an upward-facing infrared camera that helps it navigate around the dining room. Staff loads food onto one of the trays, enters a table number, and the robot takes off to deliver the food to the table.
  10. Sergio’s Restaurant in South Florida has brought on its robot, “Astro,” short for Automatic Service Tray Removal Organizer. CEO Carlos Gazitua says this robot “came out of the crisis that we have currently in the labor force where we can’t get employees to come in to work.”
delivery robots
Delivery robots en route to destination


Improvements in technology allow robots to do many tasks that previously required people – tossing pizza dough, flipping burgers, cleaning floors, and taking or delivering your food order.  In addition to robots, we are seeing software and AI-powered services on the rise. Starbucks has been working on automation to keep track of store inventory. More stores are moving to self-checkout options.


Dina Marie Zemke, an associate professor at Ball State University, recently published a study called “How to Build a Better Robot for Quick Service Restaurants” in the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research. In this study, she found that the “overwhelming majority of respondents believe there is no stopping the robot transformation of the foodservice industry, including quick-service restaurants (QSRs).” In the end, Zemke believes rising labor costs will force restaurants owners to turn to robotics.


As the restaurant industry continues to rebound from the pandemic, innovation and automation are of paramount importance and is essential and beneficial for both restaurants and customers alike.  Are you looking for solutions to ease your staff shortages? Need help finding ways to make your operations more profitable and efficient? Reach out to Synergy Consultants today!