MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) – Worker shortages continue to be a challenge for businesses across Tampa Bay. To help with that, Anna Maria Oyster Bar Landside owner John Horne is using a robot named “Pearl” to ease the workload for staff.

“Pearl” works double shifts seven days a week and is currently working as a food-runner. She’s programmed to pick up meals from the kitchen and deliver them tableside.

“She’s been here six months and she hasn’t missed a day yet so it is awesome. She works seven days a week for lunch and dinner shifts and she’s always in a good mood and never late,” joked Horne.

The idea of bringing robotics into the dining room is to help make the human staff’s jobs easier. “Pearl” eliminates a lot of the running back and forth and heavy lifting from the backs of the wait staff.

“The average server runs between six and seven miles a day when they work a shift. So if we can cut some of that down, it will help them. It is also going to enable them to have a larger station, take care of more guests, more efficiently and help them make more money,” explained Horne.

“Pearl” costs about $2.50 an hour to operate. During her first few months on the job, she’s turned a lot of heads but Horne says customers have been open to their newest employee.

Linda Reed is a regular at the restaurant. She’s noticed the robot making a big difference during the busiest hours of the day.

“It also helps with the waitresses with making the extra tip money,” said Reed.

Horne says the robot is still in beta testing. As the technology improves, he hopes to utilize more robots in his other restaurants across the Suncoast region.

He hopes the technology will help alleviate some of the issues his employees are facing with rising gas prices and housing costs.

“By doing this, we can help them make more money, we can help their income increase. It is all about helping our staff be able to afford to live and work in our area. It is hard to get staff, so this will help us recruit without a question,” said Horne