Dallas Restaurant Turns To Robots To Help Manage Labor Shortage

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – On a day meant to recognize the nations workers, it’s hard to ignore there’s still a shortage of them.

According to the Federal Reserve bank of Dallas, in the month of July, Texas added more than 72,000 jobs.

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About 18,000 of those were in the Dallas-Plano-Irving metro area.

Yet experts say, many of those roles are going unfilled.

“One of the things that’s happening, is workers are saying, ‘I don’t want to go back to that,’” said Ed Sills, Director of Communications for Texas AFL-CIO, a state labor union.

He says it’s likely the low wages of service jobs and the delta variant keeping folks from clocking back in.

“They found that maybe working the night shift, or making $8 an hour can be improved upon,” he said.

But some businesses have grown tired of waiting for applications altogether.

The Dallas restaurant, La Duni, had turned to robots to help serve customers.

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Restaurant robot (CBS 11)

“I’ve had people tell me, ‘[the robots] are taking peoples jobs.’ But guess what? No they’re not taking anyone’s job because no one is showing up,” said Taco Borga, co-owner of La Duni. “What they are really doing is helping the ones who are really working.”

Borga says they have a third of the staff they had pre-pandemic, and that hiring has been nearly impossible.

Their three robots take guests to tables, bring out orders and even sing “Happy Birthday.”

The goal isn’t to replace all their staff, but to help supplement the jobs no one else seems to want.

“And they don’t complain!” Borga said. “They are happy to do it.”

Restaurant robot (CBS 11)

Ed Sills says until those types of jobs become more desirable, it’s no surprise businesses will have to get creative.

“The market is finally working on behalf of the workers,” Sills said.

He does believe eventually the labor shortage will level, but it will likely take COVID-19 calming down, and improved pay for workers.

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“I think it’s probably a state of recovery rather than something permanent. What I hope is permanent is the realization from employers that in order to hire you have to offer something beyond a poverty wage.”

Restaurant robot (Nicole Nielsen – CBS 11)

CBS Dallas / Fort Worth