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By Greg Marat
Drone waiters are being trialled in a music bar and restaurant in Singapore, signalling a technological breakthrough with could revolutionise the hospitality business.
At the moment, these drones can’t fly directly from the kitchen to the customers table.
The drones can only fly from the kitchen to a central drop-off table. The staff then sorts the order and delivers the food and beverages to the customer.
The Infinium Robotic drone program was an initiative taken up by the incentives given by the Singaporean government.
The initiative was to automise as many jobs as possible due to the rising costs of labour in Singapore.
The Singapore government grants up to 400 per cent tax deduction or a 60 per cent cash payout if a company chooses to invest in programs such as the Infinitum Robotic drone program.
However, with prices starting at AUD $ 940,000, the likelihood that a small-to-medium business might be taking on such ventures depends on tax incentives given by the government.
Novotel Glen Waverley restaurant supervisor Daphne Fernando, who also has more than 30 years of industry experience, said: “Without a government incentive program, there would be a great difficulty in integrating this program into restaurants in Australia.”
Ms. Fernando said it wouldn’t be as cost effective. Instead of hiring wait staff, the amount of people that they would need to employ as well as the cost of maintenance to keep these drones in operation should also be taken into account.
Fasta Pasta Brandon Park manager Jerald Wanniarachchi said removing the human contact out of the service felt wrong.
“You couldn’t possibly have a fine dining experience without professional waitstaff that is trained by industry experts,” Mr. Wanniarachchi said.
‘Maybe this will work at your average restaurant but not at the top-tier restaurants.
“The service by the wait staff is an extensive part of the culinary experience.”
Journalist Joanna Mather, who wrote Unsustainable labour costs crippling restaurant industry, found that 71 per cent of businesses had now reduced staff while a further 69.5 per cent of business owners now have to work on weekends.
In 2014, there was an increase of 12.9 per cent in Australians restaurants closing on both Sundays and public holidays due to the increase in labour costs.
Restaurants, cafes and take-away food places are the biggest employers in the tourism sector.
They employ 517,000 people in Australia.
‘You get what you pay for, our labour costs are high because we offer excellent services,” Mr. Wanniarachchi said.
“We pay our employees well. We pay them well because we want people to make a career out of the hospitality industry.”
Ms. Fernando said you could replace some of the service sector with robots, but there is something intangible about the human experience.
“May it be a wine recommendation or something small like a smile, but there will always be something human that a robot will never be in position to provide”, Ms. Fernando said.
Drones waiters in action at Timbre, in Singapore.
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