If we’d been told in 2016 that the outcome of voting to leave the EU would bring with it actual robot waiters, then perhaps the result would’ve been less close-run. Because the Brexit dividend apparently includes android front of house staff and the thought of Robo Cop taking orders in a pinny and name badge is just too alluring. But at Gravity, in Wandsworth, it appears to be happening.

Gravity Southside sells itself as a “Department Store of Fun”, by which they mean they’ve put a go kart track in an old Debenhams department store. But along with arcade games, shuffleboard, street golf and bowling among other activities, the venue also runs three food and drink venues, a sports bar, a New York loft-style cocktail bar and a Japanese street bar and noodle kitchen. And, like everyone else across the sector, they’re hit by the current staff shortages, the combined result of the pandemic, Brexit and (dare we suggest?) generally industry-wide low pay for a gruelling job.

The solution appears to be the combined pushes to vaccinate, modify visa requirements, raise living wages and, um, hire in robots?

The wait-staff at Gravity will have their numbers augmented by these cyborg servers straight from Shenzhen, who worked  their first shift this week.

Cyborg servers straight from Shenzhen...

Dubbed BellaBotFinnBot, and OllieBot, the machines are equipped with Artificial Intelligence and voice modules, letting them communicate with guests as they serve meals directly from the kitchen to the tables.

The machines joined their human colleagues and will be ’employed’ on the London Average Wage for hospitality of £10.85 per hour, which the robots won’t be allowed to squander on booze and fun times because the cash has been ring-fenced for Children’s Charity, Together For Shorter Lives.

The hires are something of a coup for Gravity Southside...

Gravity’s human waiters may be starting to feel a little uncomfortable given the wheeled servers can deliver up to five trays of food and drink on a single run, plus they sport cute cat-like faces.

The hires are something of a coup for Gravity Southside, as although the makers, Pudu Robotics, has sold tens of thousands of robots to more than 60 countries and regions worldwide, this is the very first time they’ve been employed in the UK Hospitality sector.

The robot manpower comes at a time when there are an estimated million job vacancies across the country, but Gravity Southside founder Michael Harrison is clear that for now humans are still top, er, dog, saying “Gravity Wandsworth is still hiring human staff to work alongside our new recruits – and we’re eager to hear from candidates across the whole of the hospitality sector”.

The robot revolution has begun, and it started in Wandsworth Southside...

Meanwhile a spokesman for the venue told The Handbook that “there is talk about getting a “later night” robot who has a bit more to say”, which is an intriguing tease. Quite what services a ‘later night’ robot provides, or what thoughts it may want to share with humanity remain unclear. But one thing’s not, the robot revolution has begun, and it started in Wandsworth Southside…


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