Robots are joining human servers in restaurants, exemplified by Plato at The Cazadero in Oregon. The move addresses staffing issues, sparking both criticism and support from customers, reflecting wider discussions on automation in the service sector.
Small Town Restaurant’s Robot Waiter Leaves Customers Furious And Drives Them Away
"Hi, I'm Plato, and I'll be your server today." These words have become familiar from human servers at our beloved local eateries, but increasingly, robots are uttering them too.
Numerous restaurants have introduced robot waiters, complete with wheeled shelves, cartoonish faces, and bow ties, delivering dishes to tables.
However, in Estacada, Oregon, the reception to this new addition to the staff has been mixed.
The Cazadero, located about 45 minutes from Portland, faced staffing challenges, leading owner Sherry Andrus to ask potential employees to consider the location in the timber town before applying.
Andrus made the decision to go to the Bar & Restaurant Expo in March to see how robots could aid her, especially with the state's minimum wage rising and food prices rising.
“I love robots and what they can do. I think they’re kind of cute and kind of fun,” she told Fox News.
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She then returned with a lease for Plato, the hospitality-focused "cobiot" from United Robotics Group.
Andrus brought Plato to The Cazadero and neighborhood Facebook pages, but was met with negative feedback.
One patron declared they would "never go there again" and that they would "definitely stay away," while another stated that they "will change" where they eat.
Even one local page's comments section was shut down as a result of the deluge of hate.
Nevertheless, others did support Andrus' choice, writing: “Y’all are insane. They’ve been hiring for months and everyone’s been complaining about the wait time here… Stop your commenting and go apply for the job if you’re so upset about it.”
The owner of Cazadero clarified that there are also misconceptions about AI displacing jobs.
She said: “The server positions, the bartender positions are still there. This is just a tool to help them do their job better and be more efficient for the guests.”
They needed Plato in situations like one sweltering afternoon when only one person manned the bar and hurried about serving platters.
And many customers adore the robot.
One man said, "They were replacing people with machines" when he quit his employment, but he added, "That's simply current times. The young children adore him.”
Veteran of the Vietnam War Roy even greets Plato "every time he comes by."
He said: “I know he can’t answer, but mama told me to be polite.”
One teenage customer did, however, express his absolute refusal to have a robot serve his family to the server.
When visiting the quaint restaurant, Andrus claims that customers may easily ask for a "100% human experience" if they choose one.