Recently, the CEO of Hardee’s opined, as many have in the past, that if the government keeps insisting on driving up that minimum wage, well, they might have to replace human workers with cheaper robots. At the time, we laid out a few rather serious problems with that concept and it turns out that China decided to go ahead and prove just how right we were.
Several restaurant in Guangzhou have either completely fired or mostly dismissed their robot staff. The idea, of course, was that the robots would offer both novelty and reduced labor costs, but while the former came together, the latter not so much. Turns out the robots were lousy waiters, spilling soup and breaking down frequently, and their human coworkers found them pretty limited. For example, if a customer wanted the robot to pour a drink, it had to fetch a human to do it.
The issue appears to be that a restaurant is too complex an environment for current robots. People are coming and going, different tasks can be issued at different times, and so on, all of which messes with the robot’s preferred method of doing mindless repetitive tasks. So, for now, not even China will see widespread use of robot waiters, but who knows what the future holds? Perhaps someday, we’ll be served burgers by a robot waiter. We just hope it doesn’t fire them at us through a cannon.