A Sydney restaurant owner says she has received “death threats” after using a robot waiter amid pandemic staff shortages.
The Matterhorn, a Swiss restaurant in Turramurra in Sydney’s North Shore, recently spent $28,000 on a high-tech robot waiter to help carry plates, take orders and even sing "Happy Birthday" to customers.
The restaurant’s desperate owner was forced to make the drastic decision to turn to artificial intelligence after international border closures and staff poaching resulted in a critical worker shortage.
The robotic waiter, called Bella, has been making a splash at the Swiss culinary institution with patrons flocking from all over Sydney to meet the machine in person.
However, The Matterhorn owner Liarne Schai told Yahoo News Australia that not everyone was impressed by the restaurant’s newest employee.
“We received an email that said we were part of the right wing prefecture and that we were facilitating robots taking over the world,” said Ms Schai.
In the email, the disgruntled person also told Ms Schai to go have dinner with ex-Microsoft head Bill Gates – who has recently become the target of outlandish conspiracy theories that he created coronavirus and wants to profit from it.
Man issues death threat over the phone to restaurant owners
Unfortunately, this was not the only concerning response The Matterhorn has encountered since the news of Bella broke to the world several weeks ago.
Following news reports about the robot, a man phoned the restaurant to issue a death threat to the owners.
“He said that he’d seen us on the news and that he wanted the owners to die the most horrible, painful, torturous, cancerous death possible,” Schai explained calmly.
Fortunately, Ms Schai wasn’t concerned by the opinions of two enraged citizens.
“99.9 percent of the customers love Bella. It’s the funniest thing to watch people talking to it like it’s a person, but the nicest part of it is by the time the novelty wears off she fades into the background like a good waiter does anyway,” she said.
Robot waiter is a ‘solution’ to problem of Covid-19 staff shortages
For The Matterhorn, Bella is not a gimmick, but a “solution” to the problem of industry-wide staff shortages.
Ms Schai explained that after fighting competitors for staff and offering better wages to get the same employee, Bella offered the ideal solution for the business to ensure they didn’t have to close their doors again.
Amid hospitality staff shortages, wages for the sought-after talent has skyrocketed with casual waiting jobs being advertised for as much $80 per hour.
Despite paying their staff “well above award wages”, the neighbourhood restaurant just couldn’t compete with these inflated wages, which is why they invested in Bella.
“Even though Bella was expensive, it doesn’t work out expensive in the long run,” explained Ms Schai.
Speaking about Bella, she described the artificially intelligent waiter as an “automatic trolley,” rather than the robot overlord some people may fear.
“She allows us to spend more time at the tables, so we can spend an extra seven to eight minutes servicing each table that we would normally be spending running back and forth.”
Bella also sings “Happy Birthday” to customers to maintain Covid-safe practices in the restaurant – as “singing” in indoor restaurants is currently not permitted in NSW.
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