Rise of the restaurant robotics

  • News
  • June 8, 2015
  • Steven Trask
Rise of the restaurant robotics

In the United States a small, square robot is slowly invading the hospitality industry, ridding restaurants of those pesky things we once knew as waiters.

It is called the Ziosk, a touch-screen pad sitting in the middle of your restaurant table.

It takes your order when you sit down, it takes your money when you leave, it entertains you (or the kids) when you (or they) are bored with the conversation, and takes photos of you and your mates, before uploading them to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. In fact, it does pretty much everything, bar cooking the food and bringing it out.

Ziosk, already used by 1500 restaurants throughout the US, is promoting itself as efficient, able to turn over more customers, and sell more food and drink – research on human psychology suggests people are more likely to order that yummy dessert or another glass of wine when it is a non-judgemental screen taking their order, rather than a “surely-you-aren’t-thinking-about-a-slice-of-cake-after-all-that-pizza” human waiter. 

So, is there an appetite for the Ziosk in New Zealand, and should our waiters be nervous right now?

New Zealand hospitality technology company WizBang produced a system similar to the Ziosk four years ago – about the same time Ziosk was launching in the US.

WizBang chief executive John Hansen says New Zealanders were not quite ready for it at the time.

“We looked at the possibility of doing this a long time ago – we developed it, it wasn’t rocket science, and it worked really well.

“We saw no response, no one was interested. I don’t know if it was the economy, or maybe nobody could get their head around it.”

Four years down the track, Hansen says technology like the Ziosk could take off in an increasingly tech-savvy New Zealand. 

“It’s clearly an application waiting for people to pick up and run with,” he says.

One of the major barriers faced by technologies like the Ziosk, at least in New Zealand, is people enjoy the personal interaction they get with waiters, says Massey University marketing and retail lecturer Valentyna Melnyk.

She says New Zealanders are an interactive bunch who prefer shaking hands to touching screens. 

“New Zealand is small and people genuinely care about each other,” she says.

“If it doesn’t take off, it is because interactions are more important in the New Zealand context.”

AUT University consumer behaviour lecturer Sommer Kapitan says the Ziosk’s effect on consumer behaviour has some less-desirable implications.

The Ziosk provides a tactile experience, or ‘haptic touch’, which explains why people order more when they use it, she says.

“There’s been a lot of research about haptic touch –when you touch something, you are more likely to buy it.

“What this translates to is people will spend more and eat more, but they will also feel more satisfied.”

However, this potentially has a downfall in the long run, when people become “broke and fat”.

The spread of the Ziosk will likely be limited to certain restaurants where convenience is the key, she says.

“There are places which this is not right for – a candlelit restaurant – it just won’t work.”

Rise of the machines

The Ziosk is just one in a raft of new technologies revolutionising the hospitality industry through robotics and automation.

  • The Tian Waike restaurant in China uses an army of robots to cook and serve food
  • San Francisco-based Momentum Machines provide a fully-automated process for producing and cooking hamburgers
  • Kura is a Japanese sushi chain cutting costs (and staff numbers) by using touch-screen ordering, sushi-making robots, conveyor belts and remote restaurant managers (who monitor Kura’s 262 restaurants from three control centres across Japan). It also rewards customers who clear their own dirty plates with gimmicky toys.

  • Briggo Coffee kiosks, first launched at the University of Texas, offer fully-automated, robot-made coffee. Drinkers customise their coffee from their mobile phone, then order, and pick up their coffee from the closest outlet.

Backlash: The human touch

While some worry about the inevitable rise of the machines, it appears in sectors like hospitality and retail people are still seeking out the human touch. 

Retail New Zealand chief executive Mark Johnston says technology is a supplement, not a substitute, for customer service.

“It’s part of the experience of shopping, human touch is a differentiator.”

This is playing out in the United States where a number of supermarkets are giving up on self-service kiosks, in light of findings that human-operated checkouts are faster and friendlier.

This article was originally posted on Idealog.

​ ​

This is a community discussion forum. Comment is free but please respect our rules:

  1. Don’t be abusive or use sweary type words
  2. Don’t break the law: libel, slander and defamatory comments are forbidden
  3. Don’t resort to name-calling, mean-spiritedness, or slagging off
  4. Don’t pretend to be someone else.

If we find you doing these things, your comments will be edited without recourse and you may be asked to go away and reconsider your actions.
We respect the right to free speech and anonymous comments. Don’t abuse the privilege.


The beauty of it: From start to success with cosmetic mogul Rowena Roberts

  • News
  • June 14, 2019
  • Courtney Devereux
The beauty of it: From start to success with cosmetic mogul Rowena Roberts

Rowena Roberts had zero experience in retail when she propositioned Estée Lauder to allow her to open a MAC Cosmetics store in New Zealand. Now, over 18 years later through her business Red Honey Cosmetics, she has sold luxury brands Jo Malone London, Bobbi Brown and MAC in New Zealand successfully. The cosmetics mogul talks to us on the most important aspects of running her businesses, and why no one should ever be afraid to do the literal dirty work.

Read more

Spread the word: Pic’s Peanut Butter World opens

If all the world’s a stage, Pic’s Peanut Butter World is no peanut gallery.

Sponsored Content

Past the typical: Well Hung Butchery

Well Hung butchery, located in Milford, is a new shining example of how retail fit outs are becoming less about what you sell and more ...


Social scoreboard

Zavy and The Register have worked together to create a scoreboard that compares how the top 25 traditional media advertising spenders in New Zealand have performed on social media over the past 30 days, updated in real time.

Regional rollercoaster
What does retail look like in 2019 for ...
Concept to closet
Business coverage of New Zealand Fashion Week.
Town centres
A positive retail environment over the past 12 ...
Amazon Arrival
Keeping up with all things Amazon as it ...
The Retail Yearbook 2017
As we battle our way through the busiest ...
Hospitality enhancing retail
Some think food and integrated hospitality offerings will ...
The future is bright
We spoke with four retailers in their twenties ...
Spotlight on signage
At first glance, the humble in-store sign might ...
Red Awards 2016
The Red Awards for retail interior design celebrate ...
Auckland Unitary Plan
Auckland is changing. The Unitary Plan will decide ...
How to open a store
Sarah Dunn considers what it would take to ...
All things to all people
Kiwi retailers share their omnichannel strategies.
Rising stars
Retail's top young achievers.
Delivering on your promises
The sale isn't over until your item is ...
Retail in heartland New Zealand
Retailers keep the regions pumping, but how strong ...
Women in retail help one another. We spoke ...
The changing face of retail
Shifting demographics are creating big changes in New ...
The retail yearbook
With the help of experts in the retail ...
Retail rogues
We put the spotlight on staff training. Jai ...
Here come the giants
Topshop has arrived in Auckland’s CBD, David Jones ...
From retail to e-tail
Ecommerce has become part of the way mainstream ...
Window shopping: A spotlight on social media
Sarah Dunn and Elly Strang look at how ...
Loyalty in the digital age
How are retailers maintaining loyalty? Sarah Dunn, Elly ...
The Innovators | In partnership with Spark Business
Technology is rapidly changing the retail industry as ...

Fisher & Paykel makes record result on strong sales

  • News
  • June 13, 2019
  • Radio New Zealand
Fisher & Paykel makes record result on strong sales

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare has made a record full year profit with more than $1 billion in sales

Read more

Farro co-founder launches Waste-Not Kitchen charity

  • News
  • June 13, 2019
  • The Register team
Farro co-founder launches Waste-Not Kitchen charity

A new charity, Waste-Not Kitchen, has launched with the aim of feeding Kiwis in need with meals created from surplus retail meat that would otherwise go to landfill in a one-for-one model. Farro co-founder Janene Draper and her sister Leysa Ross are behind the initiative.

Read more

Wellington book sector gets shared working space

  • News
  • June 13, 2019
Wellington book sector gets shared working space

Booksellers NZ has made its latest venture to supporting writers in the industry, teaming up with the New Zealand Book Council to form Whare Pukapuka, a shared working space in Wellington.

Read more
Next page
Results for
About us.

The Register provides essential industry news and intelligence, updated daily. And the digital newsletter delivers the latest news to your inbox twice a week — for free!

©2009–2015 Tangible Media. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy policy.

The Register

Content marketing/advertising? Email or call 022 639 3004

View Media Kit