How a restaurant manager at Tim Ho Wan overcame manpower challenges with help from some servers with servo motors. 

“Service with a smile” is a common rule in the service industry. However, after a tumultuous pandemic and a persistent manpower crunch, servers in the food and beverage (F&B) industry found a lot less reasons to smile.

Back in 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic worsened the long-standing manpower crunch, with job vacancies for waiters and service staff in Singapore reaching the 4th highest in positions unfilled for at least 6 months. And in 2022, as restaurants and clubs were allowed to operate later, leftover staff had to contend with an influx of customers and longer working hours as service staff got stretched thin to cover more duties. 

When Christopher Ho, then Senior Restaurant Manager of Tim Ho Wan, saw his most experienced servers leave from the workload stress, he realized the severity of the problem for the team and for customers.

He thought there must be an alternative – tech-based – solution to help retain his people and to maintain a strong customer experience.

A PuduBot serving dishes

 That was when he got to know Pudu Robotics, a robotics company that specializes in the design, R&D, production, and sales of commercial service robots. Focused on creating user-friendly service robots that can safely and efficiently navigate business environments, Pudu Robotics has helped many local F&B businesses like Tim Ho Wan get through the pandemic woes and manpower crunch.

Take the PuduBot for instance. Equipped with advanced navigation and stabilization systems, and touch sensors that produce onscreen reactions, a fleet of them were integrated in Tim Ho Wan restaurants in Marina Bay Sands and Westgate.

“After getting the PuduBots on board, we were able to easily use them to complement our daily operational processes. It also eased the workload of staff, and we were able to equip them with new skill sets, as well as retain more experienced servers, allowing us to save up to five man-hours daily” said Ho.

Pudu Robotics’ philosophy of creating user-friendly service robots has assisted other F&B businesses like Imperial Treasure, Suki-Ya, Paparich, and Crystal Jade.

From serving food to cleaning

More recently, the company unveiled the Pudu SwiftBot, a more advanced service and delivery robot. According to Pudu Robotics’ Eva Hu: “Even in a highly dynamic and complex environment, SwiftBot can conduct and complete its tasks with ease, while still surprising you with its multifunctionality and high-reliability.”

Features to be found in the Pudu SwiftBot include:

  • Powered by industry-leading collision sensing technology and a Pudu-developed advanced algorithm, the SwiftBot aims at being the most intelligent and secure commercial delivery robot.
  • The SwiftBot can recognize passers-by, while also autonomously and intelligently giving way to pedestrians in a timely manner. The SwiftBot can also be managed from the convenience of a smartphone, and can autonomously charge itself when its battery is low.
  • The robot uses omnidirectional sensors to safely navigate busy environments, the multiple serving modes available, and its other features and benefits

And perhaps, there might soon be a reason for cleaning staff, another group of in the service industry at risk, to smile again.

“The CC1 is an advanced cleaning robot designed to assist cleaning staff, another community that is facing issues during the manpower crunch,” said Hu. “The robot features four-in-one cleaning capabilities, allowing it to scrub, sweep, vacuum and mop.”

Pudu Robotics has partnered with NCS Group, a subsidiary of Singtel, to work on integrating the CC1 into local businesses and sectors such as hotels, resorts, hospitals and retail spaces.