With Labor Shortage, Dallas Restaurant Using Robots as Hosts, Runners

When the Dallas, Texas, restaurant La Duni found itself short-staffed, co-owner Taco Borga turned to the future: He hired robots to be servers.

"I had people who tell me, 'Well, they're taking people's jobs,'" Borga told CBS affiliate station KTVT. "Guess what? No. They're not taking anybody's job, because no one is showing up. What they are doing is helping the ones who are really working."

robot servers
A restaurant in Texas recently began using robots as servers after experiencing a shortage in humans not taking the jobs. In this photo, a robot serves customers on July 25, 2019 in Rapallo, Italy. Getty

La Duni currently features three robots. Their names are Alexcita, Panchita and Coqueta. They have cartoon faces projected on screens, and they scoot around the room on wheels with bodies that feature tray shelves to carry food.

They compliment diners—sometimes even flirting by telling people they are pretty—as well as sing "Happy Birthday" on appropriate occasions.

"Customers treat them like pets. They hug them, they talk to them," Borga told The Dallas Morning News.

This is a real-life Jetsons story.

We will see more r o b o t s at Dallas restaurants over the next few years.https://t.co/Bhj5QGH3WE #robots

— Sarah Blaskovich (@sblaskovich) August 31, 2021

Borga told the newspaper that while he brought the bots into his eatery out of necessity due to workers not returning post-pandemic, he said they also offer savings. Each robot costs him $8 to $10 a day, Borga said. They are used in the place of one hostess and two food runners, which he said he would normally pay at least $10 an hour each.

Added all together, Alexcita, Panchita and Coqueta save Borga thousands of dollars per month.

The humans on staff also end up benefiting, Borga said. While the two server bots—Panchita and Alexcita—deliver food and drinks, a human server accompanies them to take the items off the robots' shelves. By doing less mundane work, Borga said a server can triple the amount of tables they're serving and thus pocket more tip money.

Meanwhile, Coqueta serves as the robot hostess who brings guests to tables. This frees up a human hostess to answer phones and interact with customers.

Customers could be seeing more robots at businesses in the future. The bots at La Duni come from the Texas-based company American Robotech, which has provided 30 robots to businesses in the state since early 2021, according to The Dallas Morning News.

The company's robots mainly work at restaurants and have even been used at a Pizza Hut in Plano.

The American Robotech creations can be bought or leased, and the robots only require an hour of set-up time before they are able to begin work. Borga said that's somewhere between 40 to 80 times quicker than it would take him to fully train a human.

Borga indicated to The Dallas Morning News that he's just getting started with the new tech staff. Next, he plans to use robots to deliver food to homes and businesses later this year.