Robot assistants join catering staff at Pleasanton Senior Living Community

PLEASANTON, CA – Meet Robbie and Stoney.

You can find the robots drifting around the dining hall at Stoneridge Creek elderly community in Pleasanton assisting staff with their duties.

“If you had told me two years ago that in an older community we would have robots and contactless dining, I wouldn’t have believed it,” Zachary Zeigler said.

Yet Zeigler, the catering director, found himself immersed in nearly a year of research into ways to adapt his catering program to a pandemic-friendly approach.

He decided to add the Service robots, a technology inspired by Tesla, to the restoration team and also added QR codes on the menus.

Stoneridge Creek

Robots basically have two modes: food runner and busser. When the chef is done preparing the food, Robbie or Stoney picks it up and brings it to a table number the chef punches into the machine. The waiters serve the food. Then the robots take the dirty dishes back to the kitchen to be washed.

“They help the servers save a lot of time doing the racing and the things they don’t like to do,” Zeigler said.

By helping with the tedious work, robots allow limited wait staff to excel at what they love to do – hospitality. By giving them an extra helping hand in some way, staff have more time to communicate with residents.

“They are certainly not intended to replace anyone. We need our servers, they are an integral part of what we do and their interactions are so important.” said Zeigler.

Residents of seniors’ residences are used to their routines. Changing them comes with caution. Fortunately, in Stoneridge Creek, residents were more than ready to adapt.

“They were nervous at first, it’s a big change. But once they saw it in place and saw how effective it was, that wow factor disappeared,” Zeigler said.

Gloria Lotten, a Stoneridge Creek resident, said the community has actually embraced the new staff members. The inhabitants even decided to give them names and it stuck.

“We didn’t expect to see something like this. But everyone was very receptive,” she said.

The robots arrived at the facility in October as they were one of the first such communities to add the technology. Communities across the country, from Indiana to Florida, have been calling them ever since to ask how it works.

These days, Robbie and Stoney aren’t the talking points of the community anymore, they’re just in the background doing their job.

“Now we barely see them, they’re there and they’re very functional. It’s no longer a curiosity,” Lotten said.

Instead, Lotten draws attention to Zeigler, expressing the community’s appreciation for his commitment to their safety and happiness.

“I’m very proud of Zachary because he’s on top of things and during COVID he’s done such a fantastic job of feeding us all safely. He’s absolutely the best.”

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