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Shall you tip a robot?

Servi,  A Servi robot in Sergio’s Restaurant, Fl. Image credit: Sergio’s Restaurant

Technology is affecting us in many ways, including the restaurant “etiquette”!

Suppose you are being served by a robot, would it be polite to tip or, being a robot, just skip it?  I guess there has been very little discussion on this since restaurants using robots as waiters are very few.

There are several restaurants using automated ordering system (I was in a very little place in an off-the-road village in Spain and I was surprised to see that menu, order and check were all through my smartphone -there was a QR code on the table and the hostess seating us pointed to it and said we can do everything through the smartphone, and indeed it worked seamlessly). Some restaurants are automating their kitchen with some robots to flank the cooks and in a few case the robots have completely replaced the cook (watch the clip).

A restaurant in Florida, mostly because of shortage of manpower, has turned to Servi, a robot produced by Softbank for waitering. Interestingly, Softbank is not selling the robot, they are providing it with a monthly fee of 1,000$, actually cheaper than a human waiter.

So far ther is the “novelty” factor, and the restaurant is filling up better than before. One should wait a few months and see once the novelty fades away what the operation will be. For the time being, however, the restaurant owner is reporting an increase in tips, indicating that customers are even more willing to tip a robot than a human waiter. That sounds strange, but we -people- are strange…

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.