Boots & Sabers

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Everything but tech support.

0826, 27 Dec 21

Robot Servers

The labor shortage and increasing cost of available labor is going to drive more and more of this. It’s not necessarily a bad thing – unless you are that 16-year-old kid looking for your first job.

Elliana chose Shanghai Bistro in Eau Claire in part because she loves its sushi, but mostly because she adores the Asian restaurant’s new “employee”: Jonny 5.

The 3½-foot-tall robot server, named after a fictional robot in the 1980s “Short Circuit” films, has been delivering plates of sushi, fried rice and pad Thai to diners since the end of October.

Jonny 5 has been a valuable addition to the staff and helped Shanghai Bistro navigate a labor shortage that has hit restaurants particularly hard, said owner Henry Chan.

“It’s definitely proven itself,” Chan said. “It’s working out really well.”

Chan’s goal in leasing the robot is to improve efficiency by having Jonny 5 do a healthy portion of the running back and forth between the kitchen and the tables, so servers can focus on offering personal service, filling drink orders faster and chatting with customers.

“It’s a huge benefit to us. Our efficiency just shot through the roof because of how fast food goes out,” Chan said, noting that the robot already has helped things go smoothly on days when the restaurant was short-staffed or someone called in sick.


0826, 27 December 2021


  1. dad29

    “–unless you are that 16-y-o…”

    Maybe, maybe not. The labor shortage in retailing is caused by a shortage of 16-y-o kids. Look at the cohort-charts and notice the down-trend in births beginning about 25 years ago.

    That’s why our next Governor is going to face a decision about closing UW schools. How many and which ones……….well………..get your popcorn now!

    (Yes, I know that the next Governor will NOT make that decision. Ever. No matter the facts at hand.)

  2. Mar

    Wwll, 1 nice thing about the robots is that you don’t have to tip them.

  3. Mark Hoefert

    you don’t have to tip them

    I don’t tip the appliances or the credit card device either, but I do tip the people who are providing personal service.

    servers can focus on offering personal service, filling drink orders faster and chatting with customers. Most servers with “hustle” will be at the table when the robot food carrier arrives at the table & put the stuff on the table. If they are a little too busy to do that at the moment, the customer will still have their food available to eat, instead of having to wait for their server to disengage from a different customer and go up to the counter to pick up the food and bring it to the table. I like this idea as much as I appreciate my recent experience at Olive Garden. Waiter came by and asked us if we wanted carryout containers or anything else. Once he completed that and we were ready to go, there was a tabletop credit card reader for us to check ourselves out. Did not have to wait for him to reappear with a bill and take our credit card to the register, and then return. In fact, we did not even see him after that – place was kind of big. And we did not feel the need to wait for him to come back to give him a hug (which would not be appropriate what with COVID). We were very pleased with that level of technology.

  4. Tuerqas

    I just think a lot of waitstaff will take that as a reason to come by even less. I do tip well for service and if it is good or better with a robot helper, great!
    if I wait for refills (I usually eat while dining, my wife usually drinks like a camel after dining), the tip goes down. If the waitstaff doesn’t come by to keep me in liquids the tip will go down at a steeper curve if I see the robot as much as I see my server.

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