It seems like robots are just finding themselves more and more integrated into our lives from helpful drones to vacuum cleaners, and now as servers at restaurants. That's right, a restaurant in Singapore just announced that it plans to start serving food to it's customers via robotic helicopter drones.
The bold move comes as a the government of Singapore looks to curb the use of foreign labor and increase productivity within the country. Additionally, the management of Timbre sees drones as a way to provide better customer service to its clientele.
Edward Chia, Timbre Group's managing director, was quoted as saying, "We are experiencing a major manpower constraint because there has been a recent adjustment to foreign worker policies and a lot of restaurants in Singapore are facing staff shortages," continuing he added, "We realized that we were spending a lot of time delivering food from the preparation area to the customer service area, and there was a bottle neck which was affecting customer experience."
Timbre believes that adding the drones will allow its current servers to interface more directly with the restaurant patrons instead of rushing around managing food deliveries to multiple tables, especially during lunch and dinner times, when the restaurant is busier. The company also estimates that using the drone servers will increase productivity by 25 percent.
The concept of drones in a restaurant isn't actually entirely new, however. A TGI Friday's restaurant in New York made headlines in December when a drone crashed into a female customer's face. Although the drone was not serving food, but instead part of a holiday gimmick, flying over customers' heads with mistletoe.
That is why Timbre is making sure that their new drones aren't just safe, but also look safe. Since the goal is to improve customer service, one unfortunate crash could quickly leave a bad taste in diners' mouths.
Chia said "the drones are not going to fly over the customers' heads. We're going to run a couple of focus groups before we launch, using some of our loyal customers, and there will be many more test flights. We don't want to rush it, the R&D has to be done properly."
Apparently drones are becoming a popular trend within Singapore. The Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo reported to the parliament last week that applications to operate small unmanned drones had increased by sixfold in the last month, with the previous average being 12 applications per month.
Last July, Singapore's transport minister announced that new policies and regulations specifically regarding drones would be created in order to respond to concerns over the new technology. Many fear that drones may pose a threat to safety and privacy, due to their small size, maneuverability and ease with which cameras can be attached.
For the time being, Timbre plans to move forward with launching its drone servers as a permanent feature throughout its branches by the fourth quarter of this year. Only time can tell if drones will become a normal part of the dining experience elsewhere, but waiters may want to start diversifying their skills, just in case.