How Robotic Food Runners Deliver Huge Dining ROI — and Strong Resident Engagement

As senior living operators seek new methods for solving staffing shortages, a new pilot program in one Baltimore community reveals that robotic food runners in dining rooms deliver a labor cost ROI of up to 124% — all while retaining strong resident engagement.

When food service provider Culinary Services Group wanted to find a new solution to dining room staffing shortages they turned to an unexpected solution: robotics. It was important to the company to maintain a high level of resident engagement, so they turned to long-time partner and independent living facility the Homestead to test the new technology.  

Part of Springwell Senior Living, Homestead is led by Executive Director and Principal Phil Golden, a longtime proponent of both new technology and amenities that enhance daily life for residents. Homestead residents enjoy a village-like setting with a superior level of hospitality, making it the perfect location for a piloted robotics food server program


The goal of this partnership was to determine the performance, operational efficiency and return on investment of utilizing food service robots as part of a residential dining program. Golden and CSG sought to learn whether the residential dining experience could be improved while retaining resident engagement and maximizing the value to operators. The answers to both were decidedly yes. Here is what they learned.

Robotic food runners can solve staffing challenges

Running in September and October of 2021, the pilot program sought to evaluate and compare two of the top food service robotics platforms: Servi, from Bear Robotics, and Matradee, from Richtech. Based on observations, the best use of food service robots is to be a “runner” in dining room settings. They can be best utilized for:

  • Delivery and collection of meals, snacks and beverages
  • Handling desired location stops for specific tables in a dining room
  • Delivering food from the kitchen to the dining room

These tasks allow the host or server to remain on the dining room floor, increasing not only speed of service but resident interaction. This is crucial because staffing continues to be a major concern for the senior care industry — 80% of senior housing providers recently reported that their biggest issue now is staffing shortages and worker burnout.


If food service robotics are a solution to staffing challenges without sacrificing human touch, they could be a game-changer not only for the food management industry but also senior care.

“The bot cut down on kitchen time for our servers and allowed them to spend more time with the residents in the dining room and pay more attention to the extra details and wants of the residents,” says Gerard Campbell of CSG, who works as Chef Manager of The Homestead. “The robot was extremely helpful for our staff and also a great talking point for our residents.”

Robotic food runners do not reduce resident engagement

A major question that operators have when introducing resident-facing technologies is the impact on residents. This is especially true for robotic food runners, who are handling tasks traditionally held by humans.

What Campbell and others saw was that the robotic food servers did not reduce resident engagement. Instead, the residents enjoyed seeing the service robot, which was a novelty and something to talk about. Many residents even created their own pet names for the device.

“Using the robot as a kitchen runner at The Homestead allowed our servers and host to remain on the dining room floor, ensuring orders were taken in a timely manner and food was delivered expediently and at the proper temperatures,” says former CSG Food Service Director Aaron Mayer, who now works for Bear Robotics.

Robotic food runners can produce up to 91 hours of work per week

The hourly benefits of food service robots are unmistakable. They won’t replace cooks or prep positions, nor will they handle side work. Instead, they can reduce or eliminate many of the job requirements of a runner or host. In most health care settings, this position is commonly referred to as a diet aide.

Robotic servers can operate for 13 total active hours per day and are available seven days a week, greatly reducing the disruption of call-outs and short-staffing. In the pilot, the typical schedule for these food service robots ran from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the robots charging overnight.

That means they can potentially replace one part-time diet aide shift per day, or two part-time diet aides per employee roster. The national average hourly rate for this role is $12.50, a part-time shift is six hours, meaning these two employees can cover about 42 hours of labor per week. The robots can handle 91 hours.

Administrators can see ROI of up to 124% in the first three years

To hire the two part-time diet aides, a company will likely invest $750 each, or $1,500 total, for recruiting and onboarding, and another $750 each for training. These roles will annually receive $27,300 in compensation and an additional $2,800 for employer taxes. In all, these two roles will cost a company around $33,100.

With the average turnover rate for food service workers at around 102% in 2020, training and onboarding costs are likely to occur annually. By comparison, the cost to lease a Servi robot through Bear Robotics is $11,700 for the first year; the cost to purchase Richtech’s Matradee is $21,600.

After the initial investment, the maintenance costs for the robot are reduced to a monthly leasing fee for Servi, or a continuing software-as-a-service fee for Matradee. The robots pay for themselves in the first year of reduced labor cost savings. After three years, communities may have a labor cost savings of $60,000 with Servi — an ROI of 80%.

Matradee has a higher startup cost, but after three years, communities may experience a labor cost savings of $64,500, with an ROI of 124%.

“Food service has always been a highly fluctuating environment, even more so lately,” says Carolyn Wescott, Director of Innovation at CSG. “Our goal with this new technology is to keep our current staffing model intact while elevating our service abilities. We won’t take an approach of deploying robots as our standard of practice just yet, but I could see that in the future.”

This article is sponsored by Culinary Services Group and is adapted from the complete Homestead case study. To read the entire study — which includes full calendar breakdowns of the robot schedules and activities, along with itemized cost breakdowns and more insight — visit

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