A guest staying at Vdara orders room service and waits for a snack to be delivered. But this isn’t a typical delivery. He opens the door and is greeted by a robot butler, who hands over the order.
Automated robots are slowly entering the Las Vegas workforce, bringing futuristic advancements that make certain tasks more convenient. But some technologies are raising concerns for the Culinary Workers Union.
From the Tipsy Robot at Planet Hollywood, which employs automated arms in place of human bartenders, to Vdara’s Fetch and Jett robots who deliver snacks, sundries, and spa products, these advancements are becoming a very real part of the hospitality world — so much that during recent union contract negotiations, automation has become a topic of increasing importance, officials said.
“We’ve seen a robotic concierge, robotic cooks that can make burgers, delivery robots that can go up to rooms, (robotic) bartenders … so we know automation technology is here,” said Bethany Khan, the union’s director of communications and digital strategy. “We want to make sure Culinary Union members are protected, that they have a say in how technology is implemented in their jobs.”
Khan says the union is focused on developing contracts that protect job retention and ensure employees know about automated technology before it’s introduced. The union also calls for the retraining of members to learn new technology.
“The goal is to retain workers,” Khan says. “We know hospitality is (done) by people, it’s a people-serving industry. We hear from customers all the time who come back because of quality service — they see the same bartender or food server. (These) relationships (can be) decades long.”
Vdara integrated two Savioke Relay service robots — Fetch and Jett — into its workforce at Market Café on May 2. Since then, general manager Mary Giuliano says the pair have been “extremely well received by employees and guests alike.”
Employees load a guest’s order — anything from coffee or snacks to small amenities — into the robots. After being loaded, Fetch and Jett navigate through the hotel lobby to their dedicated elevator. Giuliano says guests have been known to take selfies with their robot butlers upon arrival. “It’s been a lot of fun to see all the ‘wows’ coming from our guests,” she says.
“The robot butlers at Vdara provide a new guest experience, but never at the expense of employees,” Giuliano says. “The robots alleviate the burden of physically taking items to guest rooms, saving employees the time and energy that come with delivery to handle other tasks.”
Fetch and Jett each complete 20 deliveries a day. All gratuities from robot butler deliveries also benefit the human employees at Market Café.
“The technological capabilities within these machines are incredible when you consider they can seamlessly navigate their surroundings and wirelessly communicate with the hotel to hail elevators and call guest rooms upon delivery,” Giuliano said.
As more properties introduce automation technology, Khan says it’s crucial that automation details are discussed with employees. She said Vdara’s robot butlers don’t affect union jobs.
“Technology and automation can be supportive in the workplace and assist workers and make their jobs better,” Khan said. “(But) humans have to be involved at some point.” After all, “hospitality is a human industry.”