Sacramento — It’s lunch rush at Oakmont East Sacramento and I’m rolling plates out of the kitchen. Quite literally. AI robots with trays and a digital he map of the dining room carry food out of the kitchen to residents and then bus the finished dishes.
“It’s not,” jokes executive chef Matt Palmley. “It definitely helps keep the server’s attention on the floor so we can do this part here.”
Initially, there were concerns among the reception staff and residents.
“At first, I was like, ‘Oh, this isn’t going to work,'” says Topanga Timko. “But it actually worked very well.”
Leaders of Oakmont, an assisted living community with about 145 units, told CBS13 that one of the biggest concerns in rolling out the pilot program comes from the senior community. Many did not want artificial intelligence to replace the people they had come to see in the dining room.
Instead, executive director Luis Olivas and his team ensured that AI would work alongside humans rather than replace them.
“To strengthen that relationship,” he says. “We’re not going to cut headcount in any way you can imagine, just to put servers next to them and have them talk to them and really get to know them.”
When robots first rolled out of the kitchen, there was some initial concern that modern change would be too drastic. But many of the residents here, who average 88 years old, are actually enjoying their new servers.
“There were two robots, and they seemed to come out with food, which was really cool,” says Joan Bodine. “We are holding a name contest!”
And even those who have been served see how it relieves the pressure on the waitstaff. Food always comes out in a timely manner. The waitstaff is less preoccupied with plating and bussing, and instead spends their time conversing with customers and making sure other orders are being taken care of. It also helps alleviate staffing shortages, eliminating the need for standby staff to be on duty all the time to make up for shortages.
“They have a routine that they must follow, and this allows them to follow that routine without interruption,” says Neil Bodin.
While this program is pilot and the size of Oakmont East Sacramento’s community is unique, Server believes the new changes are a net win for them and the people they help every day.
“I like to be friends with them, and they like to be friends with us,” Timko says. “They like telling us stories and I think they’d be happier if we were together more.”