Wine Talk with Alice Swift
Are Robots Taking Over the F&B Industry?
It’s no surprise that automation has slowly been improving efficiencies, even replacing human labor in some industries, but are robots really “taking over the world” as some Hollywood movies might imply? In Las Vegas, we are seeing many aspects of technology integrated into the hospitality experience. From mobile phone/kiosk check-in, to opening your hotel room door or ordering room service with a mobile app, technology has been implemented in practically every part of the hotel experience.
There have been some automation innovations popping up in hotels here and there in recent years. Having a personal interest and passion and technology myself, I was curious as to some of the new innovations that have popped up in recent years and whether our hospitality industry has been impacted significantly as a result. Below are a few examples of automation that are roaming select hotels on the Vegas Strip.
Robots at CityCenter
While movies like iRobot or Ex Machina are far from being a reality, there have been some experiments with hospitality robots taking place around the world. It may not be to the extent that hotels like the Henn-Na Hotel in Nagasaki utilizes robots (Japan’s first fully robot-operated hotel), but the concept is no longer a foreign concept in Las Vegas.
At the Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas (formerly the Mandarin Oriental), you may find an adorable robot named Pepper roaming the lobby floor. This robot has made a presence in other countries as well, like Taiwan and Japan, and has very lifelike movements. What makes Pepper unique is its ability to analyze guests to determine their gender, age (approximate) and read body/vocal language. Though Pepper’s actual role is basic, answering general questions about the hotel and giving directions, it can also provide entertainment for guests with cool dance moves and selfie-poses.
Next door at the Vdara Hotel, two robots roam the hotel floors delivering room service items to guests in their rooms. Their names are Fetch and Jett, and although they are robots, they are less human-like, with no face or arms (though their spotted and dog fur designs mimic that of dogs in support of the hotel’s dog-friendly policy). From a guest’s hotel room, they can use the pre-existing table to order food or other items from the café downstairs. Fetch and Jett have the capability of prioritizing several orders, and the hotel employee will load their compartment with the ordered items. The robots will use their onboard Wi-Fi and 3D cameras to navigate around people, operating/riding the elevator up to the guest rooms. Once Fetch or Jett reaches the room, the guest will remove their items from the storage compartment provide feedback on the service.
The Tipsy Robot
(Miracle Mile Shops)
The Tipsy Robot is a creative name for a unique experience available in the Miracle Mile Shops inside Planet Hollywood. This isn’t a robot that moves around and greets guests, but is composed of mechanical automated arms that can make virtually any cocktail beverage within a minute or two. Over 150 bottles are available for the robotic arms to pull from, and can replicate a human bartender’s actions and flair, from mixing drinks, to shaking up cocktails, to preparing the final garnishes. This set up works in conjunction with the tablets that guests use to explore drink options and order once they’re ready. Guests can even make their own concoctions, or make modifications to existing drink recipes. You can also share endless photos within the app or on external social media accounts.
Interestingly, automation does not seem to be overtaking Las Vegas. One possible reason for this might be due to cultural factors. A norm within the U.S. hospitality industry is the genuine guest service and personalized experience. A robot still gives the automated, “robot-like” experience, and just doesn’t replace that same warm, social interaction that a human being offers. Another area of concern for some people is the assumption that robotics and automation will be taking away jobs from employees, and many of them are not happy about it.
Knowing that Las Vegas is a city that embraces technology and innovation, it seems automation and other technology evolution is inevitable. For now, current use cases of robots and other automation in Las Vegas appear to trend towards fulfilling the entertainment factor, or supplementing existing processes (not replacing).
What sets humans apart from robots and other artificial intelligence is the ability to have social and emotional intelligence. Jobs that require critical thinking and higher-level cognitive capability will be difficult to replace with automation, and we should strive to adapt and increase our skills to stay relevant with the ever-changing workplace. It’ll be interesting to see how the next few years play out… I look forward to seeing what’s to come in the future!