LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) – The past several years have presented many challenges for the restaurant industry.
First, the pandemic dealt a death blow to many bars and cafes. Those that survived faced a new hurdle once life returned to normal – fewer people were willing to do the job for the same pre-pandemic pay. Not only that, fewer applicants wanted to do the work, even for significantly higher wages.
A Las Vegas company has a solution to some establishments’ staffing dilemmas. It suggests bringing in some robotic backup.
“Your foamy hazelnut latte is ready.”
“ADAM behind me, so he can make hot coffee, cold coffee, he can make boba tea. He can make complicated drinks like salt-rimmed margaritas, he can also pour draft beers.”
Meet ADAM, the brainchild of Las Vegas-based Richtech Robotics. Adam’s ready willing and able to greet customers, if not with a smile, with a little coffee trivia. “Let’s hear a little story about coffee…In different cultures coffee plays various roles. For instance, in Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, the coffee ceremony is an integral part of social and cultural life. It involves roasting beans, brewing in a clay pot called a jebena, and sharing with family and friends,” ADAM says.
C3PO it’s not, but it does represent an option for businesses and industries struggling to find the human staffers they need.
“In the healthcare and also the hospitality industry there is a massive labor shortage right now, and so businesses are just not able to find people that are willing to work,” says Tim Tanksley, Marketing Director for Richtech Robotics.
ADAM is part of a growing trend in the restaurant industry. In July, Chipotle announced it was testing a kitchen prep robot dubbed “Autocado.” It promises to cut the time it takes humans to make guacamole in half. It’s a huge improvement in efficiency for a company that processed some 100 million pounds of avocados last year.
In October, the company also started testing a new digital makeline. In the future, “Hyphen” could begin building all the salads and bowls ordered on Chipotle’s app, freeing up its human counterparts to focus on things like burritos, tacos, and quesadillas.
Chipotle refers to the mechanical team members as “cobots,” because they support human staff. Tanksley says the idea isn’t to replace real people but rather to allow them to focus on more important tasks.
“What our robots are able to do is to come in and support the human staff that at these businesses so that the businesses can allow their human employees to focus on more meaningful work, such as guest interactions.”
ADAM’s a little different than the bots currently working in the back of the house in restaurants. It also has an advantage over some robots currently working in the front of the house.
“So, in the middle of ADAM you’ll see a glowing chest plate, and what that is is, it’s an AI camera. So what it’s going to allow Adam to do is detect when people approach Adam so that he can begin to interact with them, ask them what they’d like to drink, or tell them jokes,” Tanksley tells us.
That’s made the bot kind of popular.
“We also rent out ADAM for parties, so Kendall Jenner, for example, rented out ADAM for her 818 Tequila brand party, so yeah,” Tankley says. We made an intentional choice to develop a humanoid robot that would be able to interact with people because we know consumers are shifting towards experiences, they want to be able to connect with a cute, cuddly character like ADAM.”
It’s not just likable, it’s fast. The bot can pour a draft beer in about ten seconds.
“So a latte takes anywhere from 50-60 seconds,” says Tanksley.
“I’m at work right now…got it…I’m making your drink now,” says ADAM.
The sheer novelty of a robot-created coffee or seeing a bot serve up an ice-cold brew is sure to draw customers. Still, the bot doesn’t come cheap.
“For the leasing program, it’s going to be about $3,500 a month for five years, and that is lease-to-own.”
You can also buy one outright, or you can enter a profit-sharing partnership. In any case, set-up and training are included.
“For ADAM, we basically meet with customers and learn their exact needs and curate a custom menu that Adam can make for them, and then the deployment process takes about three months. And by then we’re able to train the staff, implement the robot, have the robot work with all the existing elements in the environment.”
Tanksley tells us it takes about eight hours of training to get ADAM’s co-workers trained on sharing their space with him.
But Richtech’s mission extends beyond bot baristas and bartenders.
“Delivery is one of those menial tasks that we can very easily automate,” says Tanksley.
The Ahern Hotel here in Las Vegas uses robots to run food to tables. It also helps clear plates, keeping servers on the floor, attending to guests’ needs. Elsewhere, bots are attending to patients’ needs.
“We do have a new robot that’s coming out, it’s called Skylark Medical. This robot is a more cost-effective way to complete these medical deliveries while also keeping pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in the most important place, which is right in the pharmacy.”
That desire to keep skilled workers focused on specific tasks has other industries incorporating bots into their daily routines as well. “It’s a food-delivery robot, but we’re also deploying it in auto shops. It’s actually in Mercedes-Benz in Plano, Texas. It’s been able to run auto parts back and forth between the storage areas to the service bays to be able to save time in another industry that’s experiencing a labor shortage.”
From Texas to right here in Las Vegas, Richtech’s robots are on the job and getting rave reviews. If the trend continues, you may soon see an Adam at a coffee shop or corner bar near you.
Canadian customers will likely be the first to get a look at ADAM on a wide scale. Richtech recently signed a letter of intent with Ghost Kitchen, a chain with more than 200 self-service, automated cafes across the country. It also went public in November.
“Thanks for coming, have a nice day.”
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