Robotic waiters no longer a necessity

Back to basics: Service robots sitting unused at an Original Penang Kayu Nasi Kandar outlet in Petaling Jaya. — MUHAMAD SHAHRIL ROSLI/The Star

PETALING JAYA: With many foreign workers having arrived to fill vacancies in the service sector, “extra hands” which have been helping out at restaurants are now out of a job.

These are service robots, which played a crucial role during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Original Penang Kayu Nasi Kandar managing director Burhan Mohamed said several batches of foreign workers had arrived to fill vacancies in his chain of restaurants.

“I have about 20 robots but now that we have enough manpower, they are not utilised as much. I guess you can say that the robots are the ones looking for jobs now!” he quipped.

Burhan said patrons also preferred human waiters.

“The robots take longer to deliver food, about double the time taken by waiters. So the service is slow with robots, when patrons expect us to be quick,” he said.

He also said robots could only be used in certain types of premises due to movement limitations.

Burhan said having enough manpower helped his restaurants operate at an optimum level.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association (Primas) president Govindasamy Jayabalan said the worker situation at restaurants had improved over the past year and business recovery had been good.

However, he said that there was still a 30% manpower shortage faced by restaurants in the grouping.

“The government first gave us until March 31 to apply for foreign workers, but this was then brought forward to March 18.

“As such, those who applied between March 10 and 18 have yet to hear any news about their applications because the process is still pending,” he said.

Govindasamy said Indian restaurants still needed about 10,000 workers to fill vacancies, adding that on average it took about three months for the procurement process.

Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (Presma) Datuk Jawahar Ali Taib Khan said it was still a burdensome process to obtain permits for foreign workers.

He said the problems included difficulties in getting numbers at the Immigration Department counters and “stacks of physical documents” needing submission.

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