Can Most Restaurant Jobs Be Replaced With Robots?

Aaron Allen & Associates says automation could take over more than 80 percent of restaurant positions in the industry, including serving, cooking and prep.

Restaurant consulting firm Aaron Allen & Associates says more than 80 percent of all positions in the restaurant industry “could potentially be replaced with robots.”

Noting that restaurant chains like Denny’s are struggling to staff their round-the-clock operations and the harmful impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the firm says the rationale for cutting back on human labor in the restaurant industry “is only becoming stronger.”

“This is just the tip of the iceberg for the industry (and casual dining operators in particular),” the company said in a recent newsletter article. “And while we’re not saying that every foodservice worker will be replaced with robots—nor suggesting whatsoever that the human element of service be removed—there are a lot of jobs that are ripe for disruption in the industry.”

Aaron Allen & Associates shared a graphic proposing that 82 percent of restaurant positions could be automated. The majority of them, or 51 percent, would be server positions. Fifty-seven percent of fast-food and counter workers (or 3.2 million) could be replaced, and the same goes for 38 percent of waiters and waitresses. Twenty-one percent of cooking and food prep positions also could be automated, the company asserts.

“There’s plenty of opportunity for restaurants to achieve the kind of tech-enabled productivity (and valuation) gains that other industries have seen far ahead of ours,” the company noted.

“Like we’ve said before: The biggest and most important question to answer now is, who is way out in front with restaurant robotics (and how do we get in on it early?).”