October 14, 2022
There is someone new in the dining room at Kendal at Lexington. He’s about three and a half feet tall, speaks with a French accent, and follows directions very well.
He is a robot.
Helping People, Not Replacing Them
Cleverly dubbed “Alfredo” by culinary director Judy Kurtz for the so-named cuisine and exotic sound, the Servi robot created by Bear Robotics is not meant to replace the humans who provide the vital social connections we all need.
On the contrary, he is intended to add to the dining experience at KaLex. Alfredo is currently on a test run to determine whether he should be included in the Kendal budget for 2023, but he is already doing that quite well.
Stress Levels Down
“We are still a service industry, so we must have face-to-face human interactions,” said Judy. “But the impact Alfredo makes behind the scenes is undeniable. The dining staff’s stress levels are significantly lowered.”
While Alfredo’s capabilities include food delivery, his duties are primarily focused on bussing tables in the large, self-service dining room. He is expected to display more of his serving skills when the Kendal restaurant reopens.
A Fun New Friend
Residents are having quite a bit of fun with their efficient little friend, who greets them in his programmable (and changeable) French inflection with “Hello,” “How are you?” and, when necessary, “Excuse me, please move.”
“He’s new and exciting,” said KaLex resident and food committee chair Dorothy Schoeneman. “He’s also very helpful.” Like Judy, Dorothy asserts that Alfredo is not there to replace human staff.
Wave of the Future
Despite the novelty, Judy believes that Alfredo and his ilk are the wave of the future. One of a few Kendal properties making use of a Servi robot, KaLex, is setting an example that is likely to be followed by more and more senior communities and other service sectors, particularly in these post-pandemic times of reduced human staffing around the world.
What’s more, Servi robots can be programmed by staff to meet the specific needs of their dining spaces.
For Judy, who has worked in food service in various positions for the past 45 years, the presence of a robot in the dining room is especially impressive, even as she maintains that the human element can never be eliminated.
Outstanding Cuisine Is Here to Stay
Nor can the importance of delicious, nutritious food seasoned with health and variety. Freeing up time and opportunity, Alfredo allows the culinary team to focus less on clearing dishes and more on maintaining a culture of outstanding cuisine.
“The food here is very good, very diverse,” said Dorothy. It is the opposite of institutional cooking.”
Alfredo might say, “Magnifique!”