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The rise of robots in the hospitality sector

Posted August 11th, 2020, 09:52 AM IST

The rise of robots in the hospitality sector

They are designed to look and act like us. These robots can do any job humans can do, perhaps much more effectively and efficiently and without falling ill, needing breaks or offs, and most importantly, without having to isolate themselves during a pandemic.

For decades, the subject of robots transforming our lives has been a matter of debates. But as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, it looks like robots are indeed here to replace humans.

Robots are slowly and steadily replacing humans at work all around the world and India is not too far behind.

And the hotel industry is all set for a transformation. In fact, be prepared to walk into at least some select restaurants one of these days and be welcomed (and served) by machines.

Rajeev Karwal, founder, Milagrow Robots, which has sold robots to hotel groups such as ITC, Oberoi and Taj Hotels, as well as hospitals such as AIIMS and HN Reliance Hospital, says that the evolution was inevitable.

Talking about the pluses of a robot in place of a human at work, he says, “The novelty value and the need of distancing the humans from other humans due to the pandemic are currently very high.

Ultimately, any new technology whether it was mechanisation, electricalisation or computerisation, it affects workers. The fear always is that it will create job losses.

However, statistics show that every such innovation has resulted in the creation of newer higher-value-adding jobs and expansion of human comfort. Robots and automation shall improve our quality of life and newer job opportunities.”

Adding to Rajeev’s logic as regards robots in the hospitality industry is the price points.

As per Rajeev, the price for a serving robot is already reducing faster than that for a chef or bartending robot. And the cost recovery of the serving robots now is over one year, which also looks like it would come down.

Rise of the machines

Despite the goodness of it, could the rise of the robot be the demise of the server, chef and bartender?

At least Prashant Chadha, General Manager, ITC Kohenur, Hyderabad, has no qualms.

“Now is the time of reinvention and reimagining, with technology playing an integral role in this ‘new normal’, but we must also understand it is not to the detriment of the human touch,” claims Prashant.

“While this evolution is always going to be at the forefront, today and forever, technology and its various avatars, including robots, will assist in contactless service including various cleaning activities.”

Prashant then goes on to tell us how ITC Kohenur has adopted robots for floor cleaning to enhance the cleaning process with minimum human touch.

“Experiences where the personal touch is paramount will not be comprised with but maintained with safe distancing. It’ll be reinvented with our path-breaking ‘WeAssure’ initiative, which assures guests of ITC Hotels’ stringent and clinical levels of hygiene and safety,” he adds.

Another hotelier, Alok Kaul, General Manager, Radisson Hitec City, believes that the impact of COVID-19 is going to finally change consumer preference and really open up new opportunities for automation.

“This is definitely the rise of robots and automation, especially for our industry. I would not say this means the demise of the chef, server or bartender, but yes, it will definitely have a huge impact on the workforce because we already have the contactless dining, check-in, etc.,” he says.