GATINEAU, QUE. – In Gatineau, Que. restaurant has found a futuristic approach to the battle to find servers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elie Maalouf owns La Buena Déjeuner, a popular brunch spot in town.
“In May, I had a huge problem with employees, we were 16 employees before COVID, and we were between six and eight employees, and I have a restaurant with 200 seats,” Maalouf said.
Maalouf says he was inspired to find a solution to the staff shortage, look online and do research. He says he came across Pudu Robotics, a company that made BellaBot – a robotic cat that helps servers transport dishes to tables to ease the workload.
BellaBot started working two weeks ago and has already made a breakthrough.
“A lot of people are really amazed at the robot,” says Maalouf.
“The robot is very simple, it will never replace a waiter, the robot will never come and see you and see if everything is okay, the robot will never come and ask you if you want something to drink – it will simply help deliver the plates to the tables. .
“It really helps me through my day. I open and close the restaurant seven days a week because there is no staff.”
The robot navigates around the restaurants thanks to sensors and computer programming of the floor plan maps along with table numbers.
“It takes a lot of the workload during our day. Plates are heavy, they are hot, quite large, an average waiter can only take four plates, the robot can carry eight,” says Maalouf.
Maalouf says the robot is not replacing staff and he is still looking to fill positions, but BellaBot will help with the workload.
“A robot will never replace an employee, but instead of an employee waiting six tables, it will be easier for her to wait 10 tables, I still need staff. But the robot helps,” Maalouf said.
BellaBot has been so well received that Maalouf does not rule out getting a second.
“Get another one like this? I would probably, if we get busier down the line, I would probably get another one.”
As for customers, Maalouf says positive reviews are pouring in.
“They love it, people love it – they really do. A lot of people come just to see the robot,” Maalouf said.
BellaBot does not yet have a personal name and asks customers to submit their suggestions via Facebook.