How To Build a Better Robot . . . For Quick-Service Restaurants

Dina Marie V. Zemke, Ball State University
Jason Tang, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Carola Raab, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Jungsun Kim, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


Hospitality firms are exploring opportunities to incorporate innovative technologies, such as robotics, into their operations. This qualitative study used focus groups to investigate diner perspectives on issues related to using robot technology in quick-service restaurant (QSR) operations. QSR guests have major concerns regarding the societal impact of robotics entering the realm of QSR operations; the cleanliness and food safety of robot technology; and communication quality, especially voice recognition, from both native and nonnative English speakers. Participants also offered opinions about the functionality and physical appearance of robots, the value of the “human touch,” and devised creative solutions for deploying this technology. Surprisingly, few differences in attitudes and perceptions were found between age groups, and the participants were highly ambivalent about the technology. Future research may consider further exploration of robot applications in other restaurant segments, using quantitative methods with a larger sample.