There is no doubt that the restaurant and hospitality industry has returned with a vengeance. Most recent media reports talk about the extended lead times for passport applications. But behind the scenes there is a key fundamental that is creating a challenge to support a full industry recovery.
There are some hundreds of thousands of hospitality jobs that remain unfilled. With those 350K plus openings and an increasing minimum wage, restaurants are searching for additional support in the current post-pandemic environment. United Robotics Group’s new line of collaborative ‘cobiots,’ designed to work alongside humans, help deliver increased efficiency and productivity to short-staffed restaurants with easy-to-use, friendly technology.
United Robotics Group’s promise of innovation and expertise is partly a function of its being a conglomerate – the group officially formed in 2019 following the acquisition of nine other robotics corporations, “each of which has a different history and brand name, and specializes in some kind of robotics,” Logan Ripley, the Vice President of Hospitality Sales, explained. By bringing many different operations under a single roof, United Robotics Group continues to “bring innovative solutions to the market with a unified philosophy and the goal of being the leading robotics company in the world,” detailed Ripley.
United Robotics Group’s philosophy of innovation centers around embracing harmony with humans, rather than replacement, to achieve a higher level of efficiency and productivity in the workplace. The company termed their third-generation of collaborative robots ‘Cobiots,’ which form the backbone of the CobiotX product line.
Corwin Carson, the CEO of United Robotics Group, cites the hospitality industry as being a promising frontier for CobiotX innovation and implementation: “Over 500,000 jobs go unfilled each month, and we’re in a unique position to help address these challenges.” Ripley posed Plato, United Robotics Group’s debut ‘cobiot,’ as the primary hospitality-geared solution: “It’s primarily a front-of-the-house assistant, and supplements bus and wait staff by specializing in taking items from point A to point B,” he described. Such a function entails running food, bussing tables, or even leading arriving patrons to their seats, with its stacks of circular trays and friendly smiling face.
Ripley strongly emphasizes Plato’s mission to assist staff: “Plato’s function harkens back to our philosophy of working alongside, for, and with other people, not replace them – after all, the robot cannot take orders or physically lift items, so you need other people to operate it!” As such, operating the ‘cobiot’ is a seamless process: a line cook can load the robot and direct it to a specific table, where the robot will be met by a server who can serve the food or drink to the awaiting patrons. In quick-service restaurants, Plato can even be programmed to verbally direct patrons to remove their items themselves from the robot. At the other end of the service timeline, Plato can be directed to collect dirty dishware.
Despite the stigma that surrounds robots, Ripley reminds consumers that “in our current post-COVID environment, where it’s gotten harder to fill jobs at the front of the house, the idea that robots will replace people is no longer a rational statement.”
Determining a restaurant’s robot needs is a “highly individualized task,” Ripley explained. Such highlights United Robotics Group’s dedication to its customers and penchant for involvement in guiding its clients. The company will help customers determine the ‘cobiot’ use case and the change in management involved with robot deployment, discuss the floor layout to maximize robot efficiency and mitigate human traffic, and define the number of robots likely needed. Although, “the easy answer is starting with one robot and going from there,” added Ripley; “it really depends on the customer and their specifications – it’s why we like to get involved with and add value through expertise.”
A restaurant’s return on investment with robotics is also highly individualized: “ROI depends on a number of different factors – the size of the establishment, the use case, the distance traveled by the robot, number of units in use, and staff size and wages,” Ripley explained. “There’s also a marketing factor to consider,” he added; “the robot may elevate the customer experience, increase average order value, become something of an attraction to patrons in the area, or influence Google and Yelp reviews.”
United Robotics Group also ensures that the onboarding process is simple and seamless: “We say that you can have Plato up and running within the hour of receiving the cobiot,” promised Ripley. The company goes a step further by assisting in human acclimation to working alongside a robot by helping with deployment and set-up, training staff in use of its interface, answering questions and concerns, and showing management exactly how Plato’s Human-Robot Interface (HRI) functions. “We designed the user interface to essentially allow anyone to use and modify the solution experience,” Ripley clarified; “It takes very little experience and effort to work with.”
Caring for a ‘cobiot’ takes equally little work. General care primarily includes charging the robot regularly at night and cleaning off its exterior and wheels to ensure proper mobility and appearance – “there’s not a lot going on with Plato mechanically,” Ripley detailed; “It’s mostly just wheels, a driving component, and a suspension system.” Proper operation, therefore, relies mostly on a stable network (Wi-Fi) connection, as the robot’s software operates on the cloud.”
United Robotics Group’s novel line of robotic assistants, dubbed ‘cobiots,’ provide the perfect solution for restaurants in need of front-of-house support. Their flagship hospitality solution, aptly named ‘Plato,’ promises greater efficiency and productivity by assisting bus and wait staff in simple transportation tasks. With an extremely simple onboarding process, easy use, and minimal upkeep, Plato is the ideal human companion for a restaurant looking to bolster its business.
For more information regarding United Robotics Group and their line of robots, visit their website.