Robot Waiter Is ‘Hired’ During Restaurant Labor Shortage

Matradee can deliver food but not chat up the customers.

August 03, 2021

RichTech's Matradee

STOCKTON, Calif.—A restaurant in California with issues finding employees is relying on a robot helper to serve customers during the current U.S. labor shortage, reports

Created by Richtech Robotics and named Matradee, the robot can open kitchen doors and deliver food orders to diners’ tables. Matradee relies on LiDAR, a remote sensing method that uses a pulsed laser to measure ranges, so the robot can maneuver and detect its surroundings as far away as 20 feet.

"We are struggling to find people to come in and work, just like every other business right now," said Ana Ortiz, general manager, Sugar Mediterranean Bistro. "I don't have enough employees to be running around food and serving tables.”

Matradee can carry up to four trays of food and dishes to hungry customers. "Let's say I'm at table two, I'm taking the order for table two while the robot is running the food for me to table seven,” Ortiz said. “I load up the robot with dirty dishes, and it takes it right back to the dishwasher."

Of course, Matradee can’t hold a conversation with patrons, but it can communicate in phrases. "If the robot is just sitting at a table, it tells you, 'Please take your food. I have to go back to work,'" Ortiz said.

The robot was not intended to replace jobs. The restaurant offered competitive wages and flexible schedules and applicants were still hard to come by. "It's just helping us because of the shortage of employees," she said of Matradee.

To help convenience retailers attract and retain top-notch people, NACS partnered with the nonprofit Good Jobs Institute in January 2020 to bring the Good Jobs Strategy to the industry. The Good Jobs Strategy, which is a combination of investment in people and smart operating choices, increases employee productivity, motivation and contribution and promotes operational excellence. Case studies show that implementing the Good Jobs Strategy can grow a business and increase customer loyalty.

Retailers can access the Good Jobs Calculator, designed exclusively for NACS and the convenience industry. This tool allows retailers to use their own data and customized assumptions about the amount of improvement or uplift achievable, and executives can run scenarios on the bottom-line impact of a Good Jobs system.