Robots fill manpower needs

Automated self-service: Customers picking up their order from a robot at an Original Kayu Nasi Kandar outlet. Looking on is Burhan. — GLENN GUAN/The Star

PETALING JAYA: With the longer operating hours granted to them, Indian and Indian-Muslim restaurants now find themselves short of workers and some have even resorted to robot waiters to plug the gap.

While many are appealing to the government for more flexibility on the labour front, Original Penang Kayu Nasi Kandar managing director Burhan Mohamed said some of his restaurants were currently using robots to serve customers.

“We have been using robots for about a month and I am looking to get more. Our customers are also happy as there is less human contact, ” he said.

Burhan aims to have three robots in each of his 10 outlets.

“At the initial stage, it was challenging because we needed to adjust the restaurant space to allow the robots to move around to send the food over, ” he said.

Burhan explained that the robot used sensors to navigate past tables and accurately serve the right order to the right customer.

“We will take the orders and we will let the robot send the food over. That is why we need to allow some space for them to move around, ” he said.

One robot, he added, could carry three trays of food at a time.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (Presma) president Datuk Jawahar Ali Taib Khan said foreign workers who were stuck overseas due to the pandemic should be allowed to re-enter the country.

He said Presma had submitted a memorandum to the Human Resources Ministry and Home Ministry to consider allowing thousands of foreign workers stuck overseas to return to Malaysia since domestic workers could do so.

“We hope the government can consider allowing this so that we can ease the workers’ shortage issue, ” he said when contacted.

On March 30, the government announced that foreign domestic helpers with work permits but who are stranded in their home countries will be allowed to return to Malaysia to work.

Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the decision was made following appeals by the public to allow their maids, who had returned home for holidays before the government closed the country’s borders, to return to work.

Restaurants are now allowed to open until midnight, from earlier restrictions which required them to close at 8pm.

Jawahar said restaurant operators were willing to foot the quarantine bill and other related expenses if the government allowed their workers to return.

Malaysian Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Datuk N. Gobalakrishnan backed the call to lend a helping hand to the restaurant sector.

“Although we prioritised local workers, not many are interested in working at our shops, which they consider as 3D jobs (dangerous, dirty and difficult), ” he said.

“We hope the government can address the issue immediately as our restaurant operator members are in serious need of workers.”

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