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Robot server finds home at Rochester-area restaurant

January 30, 2022 GMT

VICTOR, N.Y. (AP) — Diners at a Rochester-area restaurant are getting to watch the future roll up to their table.

The Distillery Restaurant in Victor has been employing a robot server for the last month or so, part of a recent nationwide trend. Nicknamed Lily for now, it can carry heavy trays and dishes as well as tell customers about specials and even sing them “Happy Birthday.”

“I think it’s hysterical,” Mary Loverdi told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle as she recorded the robot with her phone as it delivered her meal. “We’re in the future now.”

Restaurants around the country have begun using the machines to help alleviate staffing shortages since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. While shortages have eased recently, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there were 140,788 fewer hospitality workers in New York state in November than in February 2020, the newspaper reported.

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The Distillery’s operators tell the newspaper that they’re fully staffed currently but that the robot helps ease the physical strain on servers and allows them to spend more time in the dining room.

Once it’s loaded with plates of food by the kitchen staff, the table number is input on a touch screen that also serves as the robot’s face, and a GPS guides it to a table. If it encounters and obstruction, it is programmed to make a face and ask, “please let me pass.”