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Why Not Plan Ahead for Next Christmas to Avoid Staffing Struggles? Consider the Help of a Cobot!

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat, the customers are booking tables - but how are you going to cope with that?

It’s not easy at the best of times finding enough temporary workers to help you through the busy festive period, but for the third year running the hospitality industry is going into Christmas in the midst of a staffing crisis.

According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), job vacancies in hospitality stand at 117,000.

Although this is a slight improvement from the 119,000 vacancies recorded during the period from June to September, it’s still a large chunk of the workforce missing.

And while venues are struggling to fill staff vacancies, demand from consumers certainly appears to be on the rise.

Reservations for the month of December are already up by more than 40% on 2022, according to new figures from hospitality technology supplier Zonal.

What’s more, bookings for Christmas Day itself are up 59%, suggesting that, despite the cost-of-living crisis, the crucial festive season is looking positive for the hospitality sector.

However, not having enough waiting and - in the case of hotels - housekeeping staff to look after this influx of guests is clearly a huge concern for operators.

Perhaps the time has come to invest in an early Christmas present for your business: a cobot - or collaborative robot - that can work alongside your staff and ease the load.

In a hospitality setting, cobots can perform a range of manual, time-consuming tasks, from vacuuming floors to delivering room service trays and carrying dishes to tables.

As the name suggests, their purpose is not to replace humans but to make life easier for staff and to free team members up so they can give better customer service.

SoftBank Robotics Senior Product Sales Manager EMEA, James Ravenscroft, says tray delivery cobots, such as SoftBank’s T5, can be a huge help to restaurants catering for large groups over the festive period.

He explains: “At Christmas time restaurants typically have lots of larger groups booked in, meaning that the kitchen and bar staff are busier going to and from the table with food and drinks.

“Because our cobots have the capacity to carry up to 40kg, they can really help take the heavy lifting duties away and reduce the number of trips a server needs to make from the table to the kitchen or bar. This then allows them to spend more time with the guests so they can offer them additional drinks, desserts, etc, and that’s really important at Christmas when people are generally willing to spend a little bit more.”

The T5 is equipped with a 3D camera and a lidar (light detection and ranging) system, similar to the kind of technology used in self-drive cars. This laser mapping system enables the cobot to navigate to the desired location, avoiding people and obstacles.

For hotels facing staffing struggles this festive season, Softbank’s W3 room service cobots and Whiz vacuum cobots offer the ideal solution.

The W3 can be programmed to integrate with the lifts and will call the guest to alert them once their order is outside their door, while Whiz can memorise up to 600 cleaning routes, vacuum 1,500 sq m of carpet on a single charge, and can be programmed to clean at any time of day.

Of course, a cobot is not just for Christmas though: investing in a cobot means it will be there to step in (or rather, wheel in) and help whenever you need it.

As James Ravenscroft says: “Typically hospitality venues quieten down in January and businesses need to look at their costs. The great thing about a cobot such as the T5 is that it can really help support a more skeleton shift pattern whereby the small number of staff are focused on the guests and the T5 is doing the running.

“In other words, having a cobot can really help in busy times as well as in not so busy times.”

Find out more about our tray delivery robots here: https://emea.softbankrobotics.com/tray-delivery 

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