Wired waitstaff: replacing servers with robots


Annie Bai

COMING IN HOT. Deedee carries over the food maintaining functionality and a sleek look.

Annie Bai, The Rubicon

Robots and AI have been appearing more frequently in our daily lives, even to the extent that they are replacing humans. This is exactly what the Sawatdee Thai restaurant located in Minneapolis has done. During the pandemic, they lost waiters and workers and their solution was to use a robot called Deedee to deliver food to the tables, replacing waiters. Deedee means “very good” in Thai and is the last syllable of the restaurant’s name. The robot is programmed to deliver the drinks and dishes to and from the customer’s table. Sawatdee’s goal in using this new robot is to allow the human waiters to focus purely on customer interaction and service.

While ordering, I asked the waiter when the robot was going to appear. He laughed and said that it delivers the food, but it can’t take orders, that is the waiter’s job. The robot Deedee is simply designed with three platforms to hold the customers’ food. When the food is ready, the workers will place the plates onto Deedee and it will roll over to your table. It is an innovative idea and definitely attracts new customers like me.

But as technology is not yet that advanced, Deedee is not able to fully replace humans. The robot is only able to carry a small amount of food, so the waiter still needs to manually bring over the rest. Deedee is very accurate in arriving at the designated spots, it stops just at the side of the table. But unfortunately, it also moves at least two times slower than the actual waitstaff, which can be impractical. Personally, I prefer human waiters to robots just because of the convenience in communication. But as mentioned before, you never know. Maybe in a few years, when technology is more advanced and the robots are capable of completing the whole serving process, I will change my mind. But getting food delivered straight to the table by a robot definitely makes the overall dining experience more enjoyable.

If you are looking for an authentic experience, my advice is to order the traditional Thai dishes.

— Annie Bai

As for the food at Sawatdee, every plate that we got tasted great. I ordered the Massamun Curry with a spice level of zero which actually ended up being pretty spicy for me. We realized that for Sawatdee’s curries they are all automatically spicy. The level they ask you to choose is just for those that want to add extra heat in which they add a few peppers on the top. This is something to watch out for if you can’t handle spicy food, but without the spice, it no longer is authentic Thai curry. Some of the items on the menu were far from the actual Thai dish and some important dishes were completely left out. For example, their appetizer features spring rolls that have the classic golden, crispy, fried wrap. The fried type is still eaten in Thailand, but more commonly, they use lettuce or a transparent rice paper that is soft. These are called fresh spring rolls, which are excluded from their menu.

When you search up the restaurant reviews on Google, you will see many bad reviews with an overall rating of 3.9 stars. People complained about the wait time and food quality. After we ordered our food, the actual wait time was about 10 minutes which I would consider very fast. If you are looking for an authentic experience, my advice is to order the traditional Thai dishes and not those designed to fit American taste buds, which is a mistake many of the unsatisfied customers made. But my experience there was great, the quality was just as advertised and I would definitely go again.