Jetsons cartoon robots now reality | Don Brunell

In April, the U.S. Labor Dept. reported a record high 844,000 unfilled positions in the hospitality industry — which is one out of eight jobs available today.

The Jetsons television series about a space-age family featuring “Rosey the Robot” gave us a preview of life with robots, kiosks and interactive television. In 1962, it was a fictitious cartoon; however, in 2018, many of the Jetsons’ conveniences are a reality.

Take fast-food restaurants, for example.

Faced with a growing shortage of workers and increased costs, some are turning to robots to flip hamburgers and clean grills — mundane, unpleasant and hard to fill jobs. Wendy’s installed self-cleaning ovens to eliminate the mess of cleaning bacon grease off ovens and has new automatic dishwashers which wash bowls, spatulas and other food-preparing utensils.

In April, the U.S. Labor Dept. reported a record high 844,000 unfilled positions in the hospitality industry — which is one out of eight jobs available today.

CaliBurger, LLC, a Seattle-based company formed in 2011, owns and operates fast-food in North and South America, Asia and the Middle East. It combines payment kiosks and robots to offer chicken sandwiches, cheeseburgers, hamburgers, fresh cut fries, and shakes.

The company teamed with Miso Robotics, Pasadena, Calif., to develop “Flippy,” the burger cooking and grill cleaning robot. If you remember the Jetsons, you remember Jane Jetson ordering custom meals for her family by punching buttons at a kitchen kiosk. Rosey the Robot prepared and delivered them in a matter of minutes.

John Miller, CEO and founder of CaliBurger, told the Wall Street Journal,” Flippy will handle the grunt work, freeing employees to tidy the dining rooms and refill drinks, less arduous work that makes it easier to recruit and retain workers. We’re a long way from teaching a robot to walk the restaurant and do those things.”

Dunkin’ Donuts experimented with robot baristas. The robots did fine at making simple drinks, but couldn’t grasp custom orders, such as light sugar, WSJ reporters Julie Jargon and Eric Morath wrote. “The machines also required a lot of cleaning and maintenance, and at up to $100,000 per robot.” However, Dunkin’ uses new high-tech digital refractometers to insure its coffee meets its specifications consistently.

Self-ordering, in-store kiosks are showing up at many other restaurants. For example, Panera Bread invested $100 million to overhaul its technology which combines orders from kiosks, desktop computers and mobile devices. Panera now derives nearly a third of its orders from those three sources.

While many fear that robots will replace workers in restaurants, the WSJ reporters found: “Instead, a twist on that projection is unfolding. Amid the lowest unemployment in years, fast-food restaurants are turning to machines—not to get rid of workers, but because there are not enough.”

Hopefully, that trend continues as more sophisticated robotics come on line.

According to the Washington Hospitality Association, restaurants and food service account for 10 percent of our state’s jobs. WHA projects that number will grow to 363,700 by 2028 which is an 11.4 percent gain.

The National Restaurant Association predicts a 1.6 million jobs gain during that same period. Interestingly, seven in 10 restaurants area single-unit operations, not large chains.

The shift in restaurant work requires employees have a commitment to quality customer service. Workers must have good people skills, be reliable and friendly.

Walt Disney made those principles the hallmark of his theme parks starting with Disneyland which opened in 1955.

“Whether that’s through incorporating new technologies or providing healthier dining options in our parks – we are constantly looking for new ways to break the mold and improve the customer experience for our guests,” the Disney Institute on leadership and business training advertises.

Restaurant owners that integrate Disney’s values with advanced technology and quality service should enjoy Disney’s success in return.

Don Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at TheBrunells@msn.com.

More in Business

Cost matters when businesses hire | Don Brunell

It’s not just wages, but benefits, that companies must consider when hiring or retaining workers.

Military also adjusting to worker shortages | Don Brunell

There are just fewer qualified people in the employment pool to fill jobs which require higher educational standards, more skills, a willingness to work hard, and the dexterity to be part of a team.

The Russians are indeed coming | Don Brunell

Russia is now the world’s top wheat producer.

Firehouse Pub: slight change of address but atmosphere remains the same

It was quite the project, renovating the pub’s new home.

Enumclaw’s QFC debuts home delivery service

The first order is free, but other orders will come with a charge.

Boeing’s venture into hypersonic jets | Don Brunell

The company’s come a long way since nearly crashing the company with its first attempt at supersonic flight.

Avoiding trouble while Tweeting | Don Brunell

Your social media can hurt you or help you when looking for a job.

Lampson beating odds for family-owned businesses | Don Brunell

According to The Family Firm Institute, only about 30 percent of family-owned businesses survive into the second generation and fewer than 12 percent are still viable into the third generation.

Much-needed dose of Yogi Berra’s wisdom | Don Brunell

We need less sarcasm and to alleviate the vilification of one another that we constantly witness in the news and on social media.

Trade wars hit state’s cherry growers hard | Don Brunell

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump imposed a 25 percent tariff on $34 billion of Chinese imports to punish China for its alleged predatory tactics toward American technology companies.

Columbia River treaty talks too vital to ignore | Don Brunell

The United States and China are currently renegotiating the Columbia River Treaty.

Bellevue company patent infringement win gives small investors hope | Don Brunell

Until recently, our courts have been little help to patent owners.