Robots currently in service at Denny’s in Wilkes-Barre, Dickson City | Business

Customers who dine at Denny’s restaurants in Wilkes-Barre and Dickson City are now greeted by robot waiters bringing in their pancakes, bacon and eggs.

Both local locations have a robot waiter who doesn’t take orders but delivers plates of food to tables and brings dirty dishes back to the kitchen.

It is a robotic revolution that has sparked a debate on the future of human work and job security. The revolution did not reach the township of Hazle. location, which has a 100% human staff.

Shawn Ebert, general manager of Heat Bar & Nightclub in Wilkes-Barre, who plays alter ego and drag queen Estella Sweet, recently posted a video on Facebook of Denny’s robot waiter in Wilkes-Barre delivering the small- breakfast. The video has over 73,000 views and has been shared by over 1,900 people.

Ebert wrote in the post on her page for Estella Sweet that the robot waiter named Janet “freaks me out a bit”.

His video generated mixed reviews, including people who said they were concerned the robot server would cut jobs or that they would not tip a robot.

After working in food service most of his life, Ebert said he had a different perspective on using a robot waiter in a restaurant.

“From a server’s perspective, it’s not a replacement,” Ebert said. “It’s like having a sidekick to manage your food, while you take more tables and earn more money. Obviously, there’s a chance that he’ll end up replacing people entirely, but for now, keep tipping your servers. They work hard. “

Wilkes-Barre resident Jasmine Velez dined at Denny’s in Wilkes-Barre on Thursday morning. She thinks the robot waiter is “cool,” but she also worries that he might tip human waiters.

“It’s part of the future, but the servers aren’t getting enough money as is,” Velez said.

The manager of Denny’s in Wilkes-Barre forwarded questions about the robot server to a company spokesperson. The spokesperson did not respond to a call for comment.

Evan Smith, director of Denny’s in Dickson City, said their robot server was called “Servi”.

The restaurant got the robot waiter, made by Bear Robotics, about three weeks ago, Smith said.

“It’s an extra game of hands without involving another person,” Smith said. “It’s an improved way to get food to tables. “

Smith said the response has been generally positive with around 75% of customers supporting the new restaurant addition, but there have been some negative comments.

“Some people think it’s replacing the servers, but it’s more of a helper than a replacement,” Smith said.

Denny’s use of robotic servers comes amid a nationwide labor shortage as the food industry is severely affected. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 863,000 accommodation and food service workers in the United States quit in September.

A sign posted on Denny’s door in Wilkes-Barre said the restaurant was looking to hire experienced waiters and cooks.

John Longstreet, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association, said the implementation of robot servers is the start of a trend. He said it’s hard to say how long the trend will last or if it will last.

“I understand why they are doing it. We have the biggest workforce crisis we’ve ever seen when it comes to staffing, ”said Longstreet. “I’ve been in the business for almost 50 years and we’ve never seen anything like it. “

Longstreet said customers end up going to full-service dining establishments because they want to have experienced servers and “you can’t necessarily replace the experience with a robot.”

In almost 100% of the cases, the tipped employees oppose it, but there have been challenges in eliminating the tipped salary, ”he said. “Tipped employees would much rather keep their tips than go for a simple minimum wage.”

However, whenever there is a staffing issue, he said full-service restaurant owners became more concerned.

“I think it speeds up this concept of delivering service models that require fewer servers like Denny’s,” he said. “At the end of the day, I think people will always want some degree of touching. I like the service aspect of our business. I like the exchange between the waiters and the guests.

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