Florida restaurant uses robots to serve tables as it struggles to bounce back from COVID-19 pandemic

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Wednesday, April 28, 2021
Restaurant uses robots to serve tables as it struggles to find staff
This Florida restaurant turned to robots to help out when it struggled to hire humans to wait tables.

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Many businesses are having a tough time hiring workers as they rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some restaurants are even using robots to serve customers.

Restaurants across the country are struggling to keep up with demand. Business is starting to boom, but hiring is not.

In south Florida, where the hospitality industry is rebounding to pre-pandemic levels, hotels and restaurants say there aren't enough people applying for jobs.

"It was just interesting to see that there was a slow demand of folks wanting to come back into the workplace," said Heiko Dobrikow, executive vice president of Las Olas Company.

The reluctance is affecting restaurants nationwide.

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"With restrictions easing across the country, with vaccines and feeling comfortable about going out again, restaurants find themselves faced again with potentially the toughest staffing crunch that they've faced in years," said David Karel, chief marketing officer with Zenput.

Experts say stimulus checks and unemployment benefits are discouraging people to return to work.

"Some workers that were laid off during the pandemic have moved to other industries. Other workers aren't comfortable going back to the workplace," Karel said.

The hotel industry is also struggling.

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"The reality is hotels are labor-intensive entities, and therefore staffing and ramping up for the newfound demand has been a challenge," said Scott Berman, partner and industry leader with PWC.

Staffing shortages have forced businesses to get creative.

One restaurant is using robots - three of them - to fill in the gaps.

"We've been struggling along; we decided that these three little robots over here would help us out," said Shaheen Maleki, with Mr. Q Crab House in Hollywood, Florida.

Robots "Peanut," "Beavis" and "Butthead" help lead guests to tables and even sing "Happy Birthday" to them.

Another issue contributing to the staffing shortages is the minimum wage. With capacity restrictions, workers are getting fewer tips, so they've shifted to better-paying jobs.