Dallas-based Chili's, known for their baby back ribs and chili, has something new on the menu: a robot server named "Rita."
Rita is a Servi model made by Bear Robotics, a California-based company that debuted the robot in September 2020. Motto: "Servi Tackles The Dirty Work - Servi Runs, You Serve."
Chili's began testing the robot as a service backup in October 2020.
"Rita" is currently deployed in 61 of their locations across the U.S., including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, and Texas.
In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the robot can currently be found in four restaurants:
- Tarrant Pkwy – 8485 Davis Blvd, North Richland Hills
- Justin Road – 6251 Long Prairie Rd, Flower Mound
- Castle Hills – 4570 Highway 121, Lewisville
- Park & Preston – 5012 W. Park Blvd, Plano
"We find it very important to note that she is not taking anyone's job," a spokesperson says. "She exists to make the jobs of our Team Members easier and to actually allow guests to get more face time with our staff because our servers don’t need to run back and forth."
Rita's four duties include:
- Hosting. Lead diners to their table, allowing the host to stay at the host stand to help those still waiting.
- Food Running. Carry the bulk of the dishes, saving strain on servers and food runners and allowing servers to spend more time in the front of the house.
- Bussing: Can be loaded up and sent to the kitchen to more quickly unload tables.
- Birthday Song: Sings the Chili's birthday song and delivers a free dessert.
That last task is hugely popular for kids, and if you've ever worked at a restaurant and been forced to sing "Happy Birthday" to a customer, you already know that having a robot do this instead is infinitely preferable.
Not that one needs to clarify, but there is nothing human or female about "Rita" at all. The robot is a mobile cylinder with three shelves. It could have been nicknamed Roger or Randy or Roland or Ryan or Russell.
And Chili's is not the first to add robots to its service arsenal. Robots were pegged as the No. 1 trend in food & beverage for 2022, and are especially popular at Asian restaurants such as Bushi Bushi, a dim sum place in Addison.
Brinker has made other high-tech forays including its partnership with drone delivery company Flytrex to deliver Chili's It's Just Wings to customers in their backyards.
As far as mistakes go, Rita has been found to get it right more than 99 percent of the time, which easily exceeds the performance of most humans. But Chili's is still supporting the human race, with all its flaws.
"The hospitality industry is about people, and we have no interest in changing that," says Brinker's senior vice president of innovation Wade Allen.
"We are innovating in ways that make Team Members less likely to burn out or wear down," he says. "Rita can shoulder the physical load, leading to less exertion and more efficiency."