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'They think it's like an attraction' | Restaurant robot filling worker void at Stockton eatery

"Rosie the Robot" was hired as a trial run, but now works full-time as a server

STOCKTON, Calif — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues on, restaurants continue their struggle to fill positions.

However, at Sugar Mediterranean Bistro in North Stockton's Trinity Parkway Center, one eatery has chosen to go robotic to fill the void.

"The robot is here 24/7. It doesn't call in sick. It doesn't get any time off. It's always working, and it's not complaining about anything," said General Manager and restaurant co-owner, Ana Ortiz.

Ortiz and her two co-owners run the Italian/Greek cuisine eatery. It was one of them who saw the robot on YouTube and thought it would be worth a try at their place.

After a couple of weeks, they were sold and so was the robot at the cost of $20,000. But, with it being so difficult to find workers, it was a solution that has served them well.

"Anyone is having a hard time hiring employees. I talk to my customers here all the time that own a business, and they are trying to hire somebody. It's really difficult for them to find anybody to work. Nobody wants to work," Ortiz said.

As for the robot, it's programmed to go to each individual table without fail, serving 50 to 70 meals per day.

It also talks saying things like, "Your meal is ready" as it gets to a table with plates filled with food. 

The robot also has sensors, so, if you're in its way, it knows how to get out of the way.

Customers like Annie Havens don't mind the service without a smile.

"I don't really have a problem with it. It's a little impersonal. I don't like its voice. I don't know if they can change the voice," Havens said.

Right now, the restaurant is in need of three more servers, so if you're looking for a job, they still need help.

Other restaurants around Stockton and from the Bay Area have also inquired about "Rosie the Robot." The owners believe Rosie will pay for herself over time.

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