If the humans ain’t broke, don’t replace them with robots. Otherwise, your whole restaurant will itself be — you guessed it — broke. In a rather damning display of the limitations of technology, a fleet of useless robots meant to replace human servers have caused the demise of two restaurants in China. As it turns out, the answer to the question, “What can’t robots do?” is actually, “a lot.”
Initially, Chinese restaurant chain Heweilai bought a whole staff’s worth of automatons to wait on its patrons in three locations. But unfortunately, it soon became apparent that the robots were hopelessly unqualified to do their jobs. In fact, a human waiter told China’s Workers’ Daily, the bots couldn’t pour hot water, carry soup, take orders, or even stay functional for extended periods of time. Worse still, it was more expensive to continuously fix these robots than it would’ve been to just pay a human his or her salary, and now, the restaurants are truly paying the price.
While one of the Heweilai locations has stayed open, it has thrown away all but one of the robots in response to the problem.
Of course, it was a great idea in theory. Robots are nothing new in the hospitality industry — there are digital concierges powered by Watson in Hilton hotels in the U.S., and of course, robotic dinosaur concierges in Japan. But apparently, answering tourists’ questions and checking them into hotel rooms aren’t quite the same tasks as serving drinks and accepting orders.
Initially, Heweilai hoped that it would cut costs by implementing more efficient, hard-working machines, but as it turns out, there’s really is no substitute for humanity in certain scenarios. And considering the price tag of $7,000 per machine, it would’ve taken quite a bit of time for these guys to earn their keep anyway.
So rest assured, waitstaff of the world. Your job is safe from the robots — at least, for now.