As restaurant operators struggle with perennial challenges around labor (made more difficult in times of high inflation), more of them have turned to robots as a means of easing labor struggles for good. According to the International Federation of Robotics, which conducts an annual robot census based on global vendor data, approximately 121,000 service-sector robots were sold last year to carry out tasks ranging from transportation to vacuuming. The potential benefits have sounded appealing. Robots may offer restaurants a means of managing the shortage of workers, along with offloading labor-intensive, repetitive, time-consuming or even dangerous tasks. But as a recent Wall Street Journal article describes, the machines have been experiencing some growing pains. Companies ranging from Amazon to DoorDash are no longer operating a home-delivery robot and a salad-making robot, respectively, having found that their robots weren’t meeting their service needs or simply weren’t worth the investment. Other reviews of robots have been more mixed, with businesses interested in adopting the technology but feeling some ambivalence about investing in robots without being certain of their longterm benefits. What’s clearer is that enough companies are using robots for a variety of tasks now that lessons are due to emerge about where the machines can best meet an operator’s needs – and where they may fall short. In the meantime, focusing on smaller-scale automation – e.g. improving digital ordering, streamlining order preparation through a connected kitchen display system, or using chatbot technology to respond to calls or online requests – may be the more prudent way to go. The same goes for your employee policies, since it could take some time for businesses to determine how best to operate without a human touch – or even with a bit less of one.