A UK restaurant group says it has found a solution to the chronic shortage of waiting staff – by employing teams of robot sommeliers.
‘Brexit and Covid have chased off more or less anyone in hospitality with a pulse and functioning limbs,’ said Crakkasan CEO Nomura Staff. ‘And British people find waiting on tables interferes with their PS4 time, so this was literally the only option.’
The robots, she said, could remove screwcaps, cut foil, extract corks and even decant bottles.
‘They can pour wine into a glass with 90% accuracy,’ she told Fake Booze. ‘That might not be up to Master Sommelier standards, but it’s still significantly better than your average student.’
Full range of motions
The cyborg somms have been created by the company Sommnet which says that its androids feature the full range of essential hospitality motions: twisting, pulling, pouring and shrugging.
Powered by batteries, they can last 14 hours on a single ‘service charge’.
‘Admittedly, this is less time than my human team are currently working on a daily basis,’ said Ms Staff. ‘But at least the machines are never late, can’t shag each other in the toilets and don’t get hammered twice a week and call in sick.’
Though their internal mechanics are hard-wearing and robust, the robots have been covered with a delicate fabric to make them more ‘human’ and acceptable to the public.
‘This outer layer is easily damaged,’ said head robo-geek Mac Sheen-Lerning. ‘They’re very thin-skinned.
‘Though probably no worse than most head sommeliers.’
Totally realistic AI
The machines’ brains have been carefully programmed with AI – Artificial Indifference – to make their behaviour absolutely authentic.
‘In no time at all they make connections and learn how to read people,’ said Sheen-Lerning.
After just a few days, he said, the robots were ‘capable of working out exactly what customers want.
‘And then ignoring it utterly, just like a real sommelier.’
At Crakkasan, Nomura Staff says that while the public have been quick to accept their new machine servers, there has been some friction between the robot sommeliers and existing workers.
‘There’ve been a few complaints about not liking having to work with something coldly mechanical that lacks the basics of human empathy,’ she told Fake Booze.
‘But I guess the robots will get used to them eventually.’