More F&B Bizs Are ‘Hiring’ Robots

In recent years, the restaurant industry has seen an increase in the use of robotics to perform tasks that humans traditionally do.

From the waitress to the preparation of cocktails, robots are slowly but surely infiltrating the F&B workforce.

F&B business owners have touted robots to be more efficient and they are also capable of performing tasks that humans are less willing to perform.

With the Covid-19 outbreak, these robots have become even more relevant now, as the pandemic has led to discouragement from close human contact.

Even the famous Chinese hotpot chain Hai Di Lao, well known for its good service, has deployed robots as servers in its “futuristic” exit of Marina Square.

But are these robots just a novelty, or will they eventually replace human personnel in the times to come?

Solve problems faced by F&B business owners

Robot barista RATIO
Robot barista and bartender from RATIO / Image credit: Coconuts

The food and beverage (F&B) industry is a tough line to contend with – from intense competition to rising labor and rental costs and now, to a global pandemic.

According to Enterprise Singapore, only 60% of small restaurant businesses survive within their first five years of operation, and a third of restaurant outlets are replaced each year.

The robots can thus be used to tackle challenges such as squeezing margins, labor shortages and other common issues faced by F&B owners.

This is why the Singaporean company ROSS Digital Pte Ltd conceptualized and launched RATIO, the world’s first robotic coffee and lounge.

RATIO serves nearly 60 drinks, authentic Nanyang kopi to artisanal coffees and inventive cocktails.

According to RATIO founder Gavin Pathross in an interview with Channel News Asia, the cost of renting RATIO is between $ 2,500 and $ 3,500 per month.

While comparable to the average salary of F&B service staff, including bartenders, it can work all day and has “almost no downtime.”

Likewise, Jason Thai, a longtime player in the restaurant industry, came up with the KopiMatic when he couldn’t find a kopi brewer for his coffee.

The KopiMatic is a machine that does not require the manual labor required to brew a cup of kopi.

KopiMatic jason thai
Jason Thai, Founder of KopiMatic / Image Credit: Hawkermatic

The cost savings are also significant.

Unlike humans, KopiMatic can run 24 hours a day. It is also capable of serving drinks at a faster rate than humans, moving 400 cups per hour through the serving line.

There is no need for “staff recruitment and retention fees, salary increases, annual leave, medical leave, personal leave and insurance” when you purchase KopiMatic’s parent company Hawkermatic claims on its website.

A Facebook post from KopiMatic’s parent company, HawkerMatic, even touts the machine for making better-tasting coffee than artificial coffees.

“Each step of the machine’s brewer replicates the temperature and timing of the coffee and tea, the brewing and flowering of the flavors, through the specific powder and recipe agitation, and the action. sock pull for the best fuller flavors, ”the company said.

Such robotic solutions are also well received by investors.

In January, Singapore-based retail tech startup Crown Technologies announced that it had signed its first major cross-border deal with JR East Business Development SEA Pte. Ltd, a subsidiary of East Japan Railway Company.

This brings the company to an initial valuation of S $ 33 million.

Likewise, RATIO has received a series of investments led by a consortium of like-minded partners including Frasers Property, JustCo, zVentures, ORO and other high profile individuals, and is poised to grow rapidly.

Can robots really do it all?

crown technologies
Image Credit: Crown Technologies

There is no denying that robots perform the tasks that many Singaporeans are reluctant to take on.

Channel News Asia reported earlier in February that there were no takers for every 1,000 restaurant jobs. This is where robots can step in to fill the labor shortage.

According to business leaders, we see that robots indeed help reduce costs and speed up processes in the kitchen.

However, there are some aspects that robots fail to cover. For example, the “human touch” is still very important in the F&B industry.

As much as the taste and quality of the meals served in a restaurant are important, service also plays a big role in ensuring customer return.

Currently, robots do not have the same ability as humans to communicate with customers.

Although RATIO uses robots, Gavin is convinced that they will not be able to replace “human touch”.

In fact, all RATIO stores in China and Singapore are run by people, and the purpose of their robots is simply to relieve their staff of repetitive tasks.

After implementing the robot, Gavin told Vulcan Post that RATIO staff were actually more satisfied at work, as their time was freed up to engage in other activities such as talking with customers.

To add, robots have yet to be programmed with recipes and menus that currently can only be conceptualized by their human counterparts.

Technology and human touch can coexist

In the midst of the growing number of restaurants and eateries, the competition is undoubtedly increasingly stiff. A tempting menu is probably not enough to ensure customer loyalty.

Serving a good customer experience has become one of the basic requirements for customers who plan to dine in a restaurant.

However, as restaurants embrace digitalization, customer engagement may take a toll. Therefore, it is important that staff view technology as a tool to enhance human interaction rather than replace it.

Featured Image Credit: Telegraph

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Jothi Venkat

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