Texas Restaurant Goes Viral After New Robot Employees Delight Customers Amid Worker Shortage

by Courtney Blackann

Restaurant owners know better than anyone how hard the hits came as soon as a pandemic shook the world. Covid-19 hurt so many people, but small business owners may have been hit the hardest financially. Having to shut down for six-plus weeks is no easy feat.

Many businesses closed their doors for good. When doors reopened, businesses found it hard to keep their stores employed. Except for one Texas restaurant – which is now becoming viral for its methods.

La Duni, owned by Taco Borga of Dallas, found a few new employees. And they don’t require a lot of assistance. The Latin-American restaurant owner purchased robotic machines that take orders – and they’ve gone absolutely viral.

“I was nervous when I first heard about them,” Borga tells PEOPLE of the machines, which are sold by Texas-based company American Robotech. “We found out about them in June and I called the owner, Jackie Chen, and said, ‘I heard you have robots. I’d like to see them.’ What I didn’t know is he’d show up with them here. Within 45 minutes, he had the entire dining room scanned and the robots programmed. They were moving around the space, carrying plates, working. We were in awe.”

The machines are altogether efficient and reliable.

Robot Employees Change Game

While Borga is not new to the restaurant game (he’s been in the industry for 40 years with his wife,) he did have to shut down a few of his restaurants for good after the pandemic forced him to close his doors. Trying to be proactive, Borga knew he needed to ensure he had workers ready to go once doors opened again at La Duni.

People came back in droves, Borga said. That’s when he sought out the robotic employees.

“People were tired of staying at home and they all came out in droves,” he recalls. “This was an overnight stampede of diners that we were not prepared to serve. We were 40% higher than our best year. We were doing double the business than we had the year before the pandemic. And we didn’t have the staff.”

He went on to add:

“We were in a bind,” Borga says. “You either close sections of the restaurant and don’t serve everybody, or you overwhelm and overwork the staff you have and then they quit. Either way, it was a problem.”

Further, the robots are more than automated ordering machines. The three robots – which all have names – move around the restaurant taking orders, gliding and welcoming guests. It’s very “Jetson”-era technology. And Borga couldn’t be happier with their performance.

“They interact with people, they react when you touch them, they tell jokes — it really humanizes them and breaks the perception people have coming in,” Borga says. “Yes, they’re really just tablets on wheels that carry things back and forth. But these interactive features have allowed customers to completely embrace them.”

For Borga and La Duni, the robots could be here to stay.