It's a bird, it's a plane, no it's a flying robot waiter.
A Singapore-based restaurant-bar chain is gearing up to deploy drones to transport food from the kitchen to the restaurant floor – in what it claims will be a first for the global food and beverage (F&B) industry.
The move by Timbre – which has five outlets across the island – aims to address a labor crunch in the city state's services sector and boost productivity, says Edward Chia, managing director of Timbre Group.
Chia doesn't intend to use the drones as a replacement for human waiters, but to supplement his current workforce.
"With the manpower shortages, we're already so lean. So we're not looking at drones replacing waiters, it's more about workplace optimization," Chia said.
Singapore's F&B sector, like other service industries in the city-state, is grappling with a shortage of workers brought on by a tightening of labor policies in the recent years.
Restrictive manpower policies are part of the government's drive to reduce the country's dependence on foreign labor and boost productivity. Instead of the staff spending a large portion of their time shuttling back and forth between the kitchen and the restaurant floor, Chia says the drones will enable them to focus on higher value tasks such as engaging customers or highlighting new menu items or promotional dishes.
The drones, which operate autonomously and can hold up to 2kg, will not deliver food straight to a customer's table, however.
Instead, once the food or drink is prepared, a chef or bartender will place the items on the drone and key in a number for a central waiting table. Waiters will then take the food off the drone and serve the customer.