INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY | Staff Reporter, Singapore

Robobutlers: Singapore hotels replace workers with robots to deliver meals

They can ride the lift, and bring meals any time of the day.

When guests met Jeno and Jena, the newest staff at two Hotel Jen properties in Singapore, they found the service to be efficient and surprisingly pleasant–a compliment that would have made the employees blush, if only they were not one-metre-tall autonomous robots.

“The robot is friendly and a nice surprise when guests are “being received at the door,” said Cetin Sekercioglu, executive vice president of Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, which manages the Hotel Jen brand. “It appeals to our guests as the robots’ characters are created such that they’re not only a team member but also friendly, helpful, and hardworking.”

Jeno and Jena can ride the lift, bring meals any time of the day, and make room calls to alert guests when they arrive with their deliveries. Advanced sensors also mean they do not stumble en route to their destinations. It was a welcome bonus that the robots also promised to boost worker productivity and shave costs in the long run.

Sekercioglu argued that instead of taking work away from their human counterparts, Jeno and Jena support them by doing repetitive tasks and leaving their colleagues to focus on specialised interactions with guests.

“Technology will help us revisit and realign our job scopes: the ordinary tasks to autonomous robots, automated machines, and artificial intelligence will allow human colleagues to work on more complex tasks and interact face-to-face with guests,” Sekercioglu said.

Aside from Jeno and Jena, other Singapore hotels have also rolled out their robotic staff last year. M Social Singapore offers robot butler service and its AUSCA restaurant has a robot chef that cooks perfect eggs. Meanwhile, Park Avenue Rochester Hotel has a robot bellhop and housekeeper duo. Yotel Singapore and Sofitel Singapore City Centre were also reported to be fielding interactive robots with delivery and butler functions in the near future.

Singapore hotels are fielding robots not only for their task precision but also for the novelty factor to attract the millions of additional inbound tourists set to visit the city-state over the next decade. In 2017, Singapore was the fourth most visited city in the world with 16.6 million visitors, and is expected to overtake London as the third-most visited city in the world by 2025, according to Euromonitor International’s Top 100 City Destinations Rankings.

When asked about the future of robotics in the hotel industry, Sekercioglu said it can only get better from this point, especially as robots expand their functionality in the coming years.

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