Robot worker at Bradenton restaurant

MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) – Labor shortages continue to be a challenge for businesses in Tampa Bay. To help with this, Anna Maria Oyster Bar Landside owner John Horne uses a robot named “Pearl” to ease the workload on staff.

“Pearl” works double shifts seven days a week and currently works as a food-runner. She is programmed to fetch meals from the kitchen and deliver them to the table.

“She’s been here six months and she hasn’t missed a day yet, so that’s great. She works seven days a week for lunch and dinner and is always in a good mood and never late,” Horne joked.

The idea of ​​introducing robotics in the dining room is to facilitate the work of human staff. “Pearl” eliminates a lot of the back and forth and heavy lifting in the back of the wait staff.

“The average waiter goes between six and seven miles a day when working shifts. So if we can reduce some of that, that will help them. It will also allow them to have a bigger station, to support more guests, more efficiently and help them make more money,” explained Horne.

“Pearl” costs about $2.50 an hour to operate. In her first few months on the job, she turned a lot of heads, but Horne says clients were open to their new employee.

Linda Reed is a regular at the restaurant. She noticed that the robot made a big difference during the busiest hours of the day.

“It also helps waitresses earn money for the extra tip,” Reed said.

Horne says the robot is still in beta testing. As technology improves, he hopes to use more robots at his other Suncoast-area restaurants.

He hopes the technology will help alleviate some of the problems his employees face with rising gas prices and housing costs.

“By doing this, we can help them earn more money, we can help their income increase. It’s about helping our staff to be able to afford to live and work in our area. It’s hard to recruit staff, so it will help us recruit no questions asked,” said Horne.

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