Over the Thanksgiving holiday, a video of a Denny's restaurant went viral on TikTok. It wasn't because of the chain's pancakes or Grand Slam deal. It was because a robot, named Janet, was used to serve a customers' breakfast.
But Denny's is far from the only restaurant experimenting with robotic technology. The ongoing labor shortage within the industry is causing many operators to rethink how to serve and prepare food in more efficient ways, and that has meant deploying robots to flip burgers or bus food.
"I think you're going to see a lot more with respect to robotics," said Jim Balis, managing director of the strategic operations group at CapitalSpring. "There's a lot [in] our industry that can be executed pretty simply."
Preparing coffee, frozen yogurt and smoothies are just a few services that can be automated, Balis said. Jamba, for example, partnered with autonomous food platform Blendid earlier this year to deploy an automated kiosk that makes smoothies with a robotic arm inside a Dixon, California, Walmart.
Robotic technology is also being used to prepare bowls. For example, Saladworks is partnering with Chowbotics to use its Sally robot to prepare salad bowls inside various locations, including grocery stores, hospitals and universities. Sweetgreen bought automated restaurant Spyce in August as a way to gain access to its robotic bowl makers.
"A robot doesn't call in sick, works on the weekend and it's not having an affair with another employee or another robot," Balis said.
Check out which chains are testing robots this year to help ease operations.