Struggling Rural Restaurant Rolls Out Robot Server and Sparks Major Backlash: 'No Thank You'


A restaurant in rural Oregon has introduced a robot as a server out of pure desperation amid a staffing shortage, and not everyone is thrilled by the idea.

One patron of The Cazadero in the community of Estacada said he would never return to the business after learning some service encounters might be impersonal, to say the least.

The restaurant’s owner, Sherry Andrus, said she bought a robot named Plato from a company called United Robotics Group because of inflation and an inability to find reliable employees.

Plato, a so-called “cobiot” that is filling in personnel gaps, wears a funny look on his face but is adept at his job — bringing patrons their food.

Andrus told Fox News her guests can sit down and request a 100 percent personal experience if they are weirded out by Plato.

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But with Oregon’s $14.20 per hour minimum wage, rising overhead, and difficulty finding good help in the small city about 45 minutes away from Portland, she had no other option but to think outside the box.

In March, Andrus traveled to Las Vegas for a bar and restaurant expo with the sole purpose of finding help in the form of emerging technology to keep her business afloat.

She shared her excitement about bringing Plato onto her staff with the network.

“I love robots and what they can do,” she said. “I think they’re kind of cute and kind of fun.”

When she introduced Plato to residents of Estacada on her Facebook page, some were less than thrilled.

Given the human toll of automation, the backlash was so swift she turned off comments on her social media pages.

But before that, one former Cazadero customer wrote, “I will never go there again … NO THANK YOU… Get rid of this we [live] in a small a** town why in earth!?”

Hundreds of others shared similar sentiments.

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Andrus told Fox News she was stunned by the responses.

“I had no clue that people would literally not want to come to the restaurant because I had a robot,” she said.

One man recently balked at the idea of automation in food service, and told Andrus to keep the bot away from his family, Andrus said.

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But Andrus ultimately put Plato to work, and he has been accepted by many of her customers.

One military veteran from the Vietnam War era told Fox News he enjoys the novelty of being served by something that looks as though it could have come out of a science fiction film.

A man named Roy said, “I say ‘Hi’ to him every time he comes by. I know he can’t answer, but Mama told me to be polite.”

Plato is also a hit with children who visit Cazadero.

But the bot doesn’t always interfere with human staffers who often choose to offer good, old-fashioned customer service to earn their tips.

But Plato has reportedly been helpful on occasion when the restaurant is shorthanded. Andrus is committed to keeping Plato on her staff in spite of some of the backlash.

Of course, who can blame a small business owner for doing everything in her power to keep her doors open? The restaurant business is and always has been a tough one — even when the economy is strong.

While no one wants to see anyone put out of a job by artificial intelligence or robotics, it sounds like Andrus simply did what she had to do.

If working-age people in Estacada and nearby areas aren’t willing to apply to join her staff, the technology is there to fill in some of the gaps.

While the idea of having food brought out by a robot might sound off-putting for some, Andrus is using it to keep herself and others earning a living.

Plato is simply a sign of the times.

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Johnathan Jones has worked as a reporter, an editor, and producer in radio, television and digital media.
Johnathan "Kipp" Jones has worked as an editor and producer in radio and television. He is a proud husband and father.