An understaffed Dallas restaurant is renting robots for $15 a day to welcome guests and take food to tables

A waitress puts plates on a tray of a robot waiter at a Shokoladnitsa coffee shop in Russia.
A waitress puts plates on a tray of a robot waiter at a Shokoladnitsa coffee shop in Russia. Photo by Vladimir GerdoTASS via Getty Images
  • A Dallas restaurant suffering from the labor shortage is renting robots for $US15 ($AU20) a day each, CNN reported.
  • The robots can welcome guests, bring food to tables, and sing, the restaurant owner said.
  • Staff were previously “overwhelmed, overworked, and frustrated,” he said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A Latin American restaurant in Texas is renting robots for $US15 ($AU20) a day each to serve guests as it struggles to find staff, CNN first reported on Wednesday.

Espartaco Borga, owner of La Duni in Dallas, told CNN the robots welcome guests and take food to tables. They can also laugh and sing “Happy Birthday,” he said.

Using the robots was a “no-brainer” to fill the gaps in his workforce, he said. Staff were previously “overwhelmed, overworked, and frustrated,” he said.

The robots haven’t replaced any staff in the restaurant, he told CNN.

Borga told Insider that the restaurant had leased three robots for 48 months: Panchita, the food runner; Alexcita, the beverage runner; and Coqueta, the host assistant.

The robots can begin working after a 90-minute initial setup, while a human takes one to two weeks of training, Borga told Insider. “It makes a lot of financial sense,” he said.

Borga told CNN that the money he saves with the robots helps him pay his employees more for working fewer hours.

Borga said he leased the robots from Texas-based American Robotech. Insider contacted American Robotech for comment, but did not immediately hear back.

Customers have returned to the restaurant after a dip in the pandemic and during the Texas winter storm, Borga told CNN – but some staff haven’t returned.

“The only part that didn’t come back were the employees,” Borga said in the interview.

“All of a sudden we had 50 to 100% more business than we did, even prior to Covid, with a third of the staff. So everybody was getting overwhelmed, overworked and frustrated, both customers and staff,” he told CNN.

Restaurants across the US are suffering from a severe shortage of workers.

A California Arby’s drive-thru installed a voice-assistant robot to take orders, and the owner redistributed workers to the kitchen due to a lack of staff, AP reported.

One Michigan restaurant owner is relying on friends to pick up shifts because she doesn’t have enough staff, local news site WSBT reported.