Robots do dirty work, pose for pictures at Hawks Cay Resort

Who would have guessed robots helping servers in the restaurant at the Hawks Cay Resort in Duck Key, Florida, would become the new experiential, Instagram-able moment for guests? But such is the case at this 177-room resorts where, much to the guests delight, two robots help serve prepared food to the tables and return dishes to the Angler & Ale kitchen.

“Guests are delightfully surprised to see the robots,” said the resort’s Vice President and Managing Director Sheldon Suga. “They are taking photos and sharing them on social, which was an unexpected and welcome benefit.”

In June, the resort enlisted the help of four robots to do janitorial work along with two additional robots to support serving staff at its restaurant.

“Service suffered during the pandemic due to COVID-19 protocols. We value our human capital and want to make sure we’re keeping our staff engaged and in positions where they are most needed,” Suga added. “We found that using robots for the routine jobs that take a lot of time and labor opens opportunities for us to put more team members out in front of guests, taking care of requests to ensure we’re providing the exceptional level of service.”

Two robots vacuum and sweep guest corridors and event meeting spaces, while two more robots focus solely on solid floor surfaces that dispense a cleaning solution and then scrub it clean.

The Servi robot from Bear Robotics working in the Hawks Cay Resort restaurants

Sourced from SoftBank Robotics and Bear Robotics, the robots run on Artificial Intelligence. Each robot is programmed with the floorplan of the intended space, which helps it to work efficiently and contactless. Suga added that it was easy to get robots up and running.

Teaching the robots their intended job was an easy process, Suga explained. “Getting the robots up and running was simple. All we had to do was allow the robots to roam the assigned spaces so that each floorplan could be programmed into the respective robot’s memory. Now, all we have to do is press ‘start’ and the job is taken care of.”

While Suga said ‘onboarding’ the robots can be time consuming in terms of to train staff to adapt to new technologies, the investment was minimal as compared to actual labor and benefits. “Based on our ‘labor model,’ we show savings of more than 50%. Most importantly, however, we are able to put people in front of guests rather than have highly valued staff members doing simple, yet time-consuming tasks,” he added.

While there are no plans to add more robots, Suga said the resort has ‘gained staff’ with the robots in place. “We are also seeing that our employees are happier as they are able to spend their time doing more engaging and fulfilling work,” he added.

The Whiz cleaning robot from Softbank Robotics

At a time when contactless service and cleanliness is a new priority, this unique addition might start a new trend. “The hospitality industry is traditionally slow at integrating new technologies into hotels,” Suga said. “However, if there is one thing that the last 18 months should have taught us is that we have to adapt to ensure that we keep up current trends. Hotels that do not consider how technological advancements can enhance service and productivity are going to be left behind.”

Ever since the robots have joined the team, Hawks Cay Resort has received higher guest satisfaction ratings and reviews on cleanliness, Suga added. “Guests have been very receptive to the robots. Their presence reinforces just how serious we are about providing a clean space to enjoy, and service is enhanced in our restaurant by providing support to our servers.”