We kept seeing different versions of this robot that can carry food and beverages all over the show floor. Pictured here is the roaming robot server from Pepsi, which is designed to dole out Pepsi beverages and products to customers in restaurants, designated curbside pickup areas, stadiums and more.
Most of the bots we saw had similar designs, with a friendly computerized face (some with customizable facial features like heart eyes), a multi-layered tray and ability for the operator to program and map out designated routes for the robot.
We think this technology is still in its infancy stages, as right now it seems like capabilities are limited, but robots are less like gimmicks and more like crucial tools as the labor shortage continues.
As we mentioned, kiosk technology has been a part of the restaurant tech conversation for years at this point. But we were impressed by the next generation of kiosks we saw on the NRA show floor that all emphasized the growing importance of human-free tech.
For example, tech solutions company Grubbrrr was displaying its new self-ordering kiosk, which is customizable with your restaurant’s aesthetic and color scheme and can be programmed remotely with new and changing menu items. For example, if a restaurant is out of an item, the operator can remove it remotely and it will disappear from the kiosk screens. Grubbrrr will also soon be taking this technology to convenience stores, where customers will be able to load their purchase onto a self-checkout counter, and the items will be automatically scanned and the total amount owed calculated.
One of the most eye-catching devices we saw at the NRA show was the suite of robot technology products from RichTech Robotics. One of their newest products is a robot dog, designed specifically for food delivery. Though the robot dog does not yet have a name, RichTech has imbued him with the ability to easily walk up stairs and sense obstacles to bring food deliveries door-to-door from a compartment on his back. He can also kick and pose.
The delivery robot dog joins other automated delivery vehicles like Nuro Bot in helping operators meet the exploding demand for off-premises access as labor pressures continue.
Also from RichTech Robotics is ADAM: a dual-arm robotic system that RichTech programmed to make drinks on the NRA Show floor (coffee drinks in the morning and alcoholic drinks in the afternoon). With two robotic arms, ADAM has the ability to make two drinks at once, unlike most baristas and bartenders who (presumably) can only handle one drink order at once. Again, this technology prioritizes efficiency and speed.
The robot arms can handle both precise and imprecise movements using Intel AI depth sensors to be able to pour, stir, and shake coffee drinks and cocktails. Although ADAM was being used at the show to handle beverages, RichTech said that he could also be used in the kitchen to flip burgers and fry food, ala Miso Robotics’ familiar Flippy robot.
Pickup lockers were another piece of eye-catching technology that we saw at the NRA Show. While not exactly new, (Wingstop and Burger King were both testing out pickup lockers as early as 2020), we were impressed with just how many versions of smart pickup lockers we saw, with features like temperature control and app connectivity. Order pickup lockers eliminate some repetitive tasks from employees (much like the kiosks), who can then focus on hospitality and answering guest questions, and hopefully make restaurant jobs more appealing in the process.