Vernon Hills restaurant uses robot to serve food as staff shortages continue

The future of dining has arrived in north suburban Vernon Hills. 

And it’s running on wheels and a battery.

Its name is Servi, the first robotic food server of its kind in Illinois. 

And it could be a resource for restaurants struggling to fill jobs.

With the push of a button, the robot named Servi is off and running.

It’s a glimpse of the future at CM Chicken, a Korean restaurant in Vernon Hills that opened just last week. 

The restaurant is getting a lot of buzz about its food, and the way it’s served. 

"They’ve actually stopped by to see Servi. It’s quite an amazing thing for a lot of customers," said owner Jazmine Uristigui.

Servi was developed by Bear Robotics out of Redmond, California, and while it’s being used in hundreds of restaurants on the east and west coasts, this is the first Servi in Illinois.

"Obviously right now with Covid, restaurants have been really hard to find staff members," said Scott Leavitt of Bear Robotics. "So what we want to do is take that load off and allow the restaurant to really focus on the customers and allow Servi to do that back and forth food running."

So what happens if somebody accidentally steps in front of Servi? 

It stops, thinks for a moment and then zips around the obstruction. 

"We have a camera facing forward, a camera facing up and a camera facing down," Leavitt explained. "And we also have the LiDAR which is scanning 180° looking for any obstacles in its way."


As for customers like Dan Smus, it takes a little getting used to. 

"I think it’s a cool idea. I’m all about trying new things. And I think technology is advancing anyway, so I’m on board," said Smus.

"I think it’s really unique," said customer Alex Kim. "We’re probably looking into the future, and I’ve never seen anything like it."

But will robot servers take the place of real waiters and waitresses?  

"Servi’s not taking any jobs away," Leavitt said. "We still want the servers to take the orders, interact with the customers, spend more time with the customers and not more time running back to the kitchen to get the food."

And no, you don’t have to tip the robot.