BOCA RATON, Fla. — CareerSource Palm Beach County says the leisure and hospitality sectors are still down about 4,000 workers since the inception of the coronavirus pandemic. As restaurant operators struggle with staffing, restaurants in Boca Raton are turning to robot servers called cobots (collaborative robots).
CareerSource Palm Beach County says there are about 4,000 jobs that need to be filled in the leisure and hospitality sectors. @WPTVMatt saw this business' sign on Clematis last week. pic.twitter.com/9ZgAegLTXN— T.A. Walker (@timallanwalker) January 11, 2022
Louis Grayson is the operator of several Asian eateries in Palm Beach County. He introduced us to his robot.
"She doesn't like her ears touched, her name is Bella," said Grayson. As one employee started rubbing Bella's ears she said, "Stop touching my ears!"
Bella is a robot at the fast-casual Asian bowl concept called Eat District in Boca Raton.
"Hello, Your food is here," she said to a table.
"It helps greats the customer it helps run the food. It can even seat customers and it even sings happy birthday," said Grayson.
In this pandemic, help is hard to come by. The demand for collaborative robots or “COBOTS” is surging as industries struggle to fill open positions. Right now, the unemployment rate in the Palm Beaches is 3.5%, below the national average. There are more job openings than unemployed people. And over the last 8 months, the amount of people working in the leisure and hospitality sector in Palm Beach County has risen by 13.9%.
"Due to like the labor shortage it really does help us with a little bit more like a helping hand," said Grayson.
Bella's attendance record is perfect, "Luckily the robot never calls out sick!" said Grayson and then admitted she may need time off for system updates.
At Eat District Bella is more of a food runner, "Helping the staff run the food being intuitive with the customers," Grayson said.
At The Sea Asian Kitchen, also in Boca Raton, Louis has given that robot more responsibilities, "Placing all the plates and everything on there and runs it to the dishwasher," said Grayson.
The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association said operators have told them that robots, "Cuts down on costs and they have proven to be reliable."
Bella costs over $10,000, "We thought about it and we thought you know from that $10,000 to extra helping hand is worth every penny," and in less than six months pays for herself instead of a restaurant paying for a full-time employee.