‘WD-40 for the tip?’ New server at this Kansas City bar and restaurant is a robot

Sonny loads up with trays of grilled chicken sandwiches, fries and salad as he heads to table 42 at Tanner’s Bar & Grill in Red Bridge Shopping Center. Dishes delivered, Sonny turns and heads back to the kitchen.

But customer Bond Faulwell of Overland Park wonders aloud, “Do we leave WD-40 for the tip?”

Sonny is a new robot server at the south Kansas City restaurant.

Trade magazine Nation’s Restaurant News said robots are uniquely positioned to support restaurants through the current wave of labor shortages. They are best used for tasks that are physical and repetitive, freeing up employees for more important tasks such as interacting with customers. It said the robot should always be escorted by a human.

Tanner’s, at 11134 Holmes Road, pays an undisclosed monthly fee for Sonny, but a spokeswoman said they will not pass the cost on to customers by increasing prices.

Robots like Sonny are best used for tasks that are physical and repetitive, freeing up employees to talk to customers.
Robots like Sonny are best used for tasks that are physical and repetitive, freeing up employees to talk to customers.

Kitchen employees place orders on Sonny’s two trays, plug in the table number and send it off to the dining room.

Servers meet Sonny at the table and hand the dishes to customers. Then they plug in a code to send the robot back to the kitchen.

“We’re amazed by the little robot running around,” said Jim Ogden of Overland Park.

Sonny, created by California’s Bear Robotics Inc., also can be loaded with dirty plates to take back to the kitchen, then it is cleaned and sanitized before making another delivery. It tends to spill drinks when maneuvering from tile to carpet, so for now it is just taking plates.

“It does help, especially with the bigger tables,” said Tiffany Hearld, manager. “And the kids love it. They want it to bring their food.”

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