“Right now, Servi is more of a Bus-i, I guess you could say.”

Food and beverages director Jacky Li is talking about the smooth-moving black and white robot gliding through the dining room of Roger Bar and Restaurant in Mountain View. Servi the robot pauses where people load it up with dishes after a meal. Then, the robot rolls away to the kitchen with a quiet, upbeat chirp.

Servi, from Redwood City’s Bear Robotics, is like a sleek, modern hybrid of a “Star Wars” Stormtrooper and Rosey the Robot from the 1960s cartoon “The Jetsons.” Unlike Rosey, however, Servi is not meant to be a “Jill of all trades.”

Servi, a robot from Redwood City-based Bear Robotics, makes the rounds at Roger Bar and Restaurant. Food and beverages director Jacky Li says the staff uses it as an amenity to help return dishes from the dining room to the kitchen. Photo by Sara Hayden.

“We tried to program (Servi) to serve, but it really lacked the — what’s the best way to say this? It really lacked the service,” Li says. “We were like, ‘That’s not really good.’ We redesigned it to help with something else, like bussing.”

Since it opened in July, Roger, as with most restaurants across the U.S., has faced hiring challenges amid a labor shortage during the pandemic. Leveraging tech tools can help alleviate some of the pressure, Li says.

“It helps with the staff knowing that we have them in mind because of the shortage, instead of waving our hands up and saying, ‘Well, it’s not our fault, we’re trying to hire.'”

Robots in restaurants and hotels were gaining attention in other locations, even before the pandemic. Robots have cooked hot pot in Beijing, made pizza in Paris and Mountain View, dispensed coffee in San Francisco and mixed cocktails in Las Vegas, so why not make greater use of them here, at Roger and the Ameswell Hotel where the restaurant is located?

Read more: Robots and conveyor belts: Jacky Li talks kitchen tech at Roger Bar and Restaurant