Shortage of employees | Digitalization

Here comes the robotic waiter

"This way": Innkeeper Tim Bornewasser with service robot BellaBot.
"This way": Innkeeper Tim Bornewasser with service robot BellaBot.

The BellaBot service robot has been making its rounds at the Hafenrestaurant in Grömitz for around two months. According to restaurateur Tim Bornewasser, the workload for the service staff has been greatly reduced and the acquisition costs will soon be amortized. The next robot is to be installed soon.

The hype surrounding BellaBot was great: When Tim Bornewasser, owner and manager of the Hafenrestaurant in the Baltic Sea resort of Grömitz, presented the mobile helper to the public last October, restaurateurs and kitchen logistics experts from all over Germany, Austria and Switzerland came to inspect the robot.

To date, interest has not waned, and Bornewasser receives new inquiries about the machine colleague on an almost daily basis. Inquiries come from major catering brands as well as commercial kitchen operators, among others.

Response to staff shortage

The industry's great interest in a mobile helper is no coincidence: the Corona pandemic has left the hospitality industry with an immense shortage of staff. According to a Dehoga survey, about 80 percent of businesses in the hospitality industry reported problems due to vacant positions at the end of last year. About 300,000 people left the industry during the pandemic, according to the German Federal Employment Agency.

So could robots be the sustainable solution to the shortage of skilled workers in the hospitality industry? Tim Bornewasser takes a very differentiated view: "Our 'Bella' takes on simple tasks and in no way replaces human service staff. In the main, it relieves the workload." In any case, the service staff in the restaurant no longer wants to do without the new colleague. On the contrary, the staff is delighted that the next robot is due to start work in Grömitz in April.

The AI-equipped service robot uses laser technology to locate and navigate its way through an assigned area of the 210-seat restaurant. Kitchen staff load Bella with dishes, and the robot brings the food to the previously instructed table. To clear the table, service staff have the option of calling their AI colleague via a button on their arm or by voice control, having the used dishes loaded and returned to the kitchen.

Amortized after 120 days

"The collaboration in the first two months has been smooth. Bella works reliably, and the battery lasts at least 12 hours. The guests are thrilled," reports Bornewasser. The mobile helper was developed by the Chinese company Pudu Robotics, represented in Germany by DigPanda GmbH. The restaurateur invested around 20,000 euros in the robot. According to Bornewasser's calculations, Bella paid for itself after about 120 days.

Bella takes on those tasks that students or temporary staff in particular would do: "However, I can no longer fill these jobs anyway. I simply can't find any more temps," says the restaurateur. It's a classic win-win situation, he says. In the medium term, Bornewasser is certain, it will be impossible to imagine the hospitality industry in Germany without AI colleagues.
About the manufacturer
Munich-based DigPanda GmbH is a provider of robotics solutions for service industries. The product range includes serving, clearing, advertising, disinfection and room service robots. DigPanda's mission is to support their customers in hotels, restaurants, clinics, supermarkets, nursing homes, etc. in the service process. Shenzhen Pudu Robotics is a leading manufacturer of service robots from the "Chinese Silicon Valley" Shenzhen. DigPanda GmbH is the general distributor of Shenzhen Pudu Robotics in Germany / Austria / Switzerland.