Guests at one downtown Buffalo hotel may now find some of their room service requests fulfilled by a short, silver butler who doesn't work for tips. The Westin Buffalo on Thursday formally introduced what managers say is the first robot butler to be utilized in any hotel in New York State.
The Relay robot, manufactured by the company Savioke, was first put into service in December but was demonstrated to visiting reporters on Thursday.
"When we were approached with this opportunity, I think was exciting to test out something that's being used in very few properties around the world," said Thomas Long, general manager of the Westin Buffalo. "We thought it would be an enhancement to the guest experience here at the Westin."
The robot features a compartment at the top of the unit which will carry smaller orders to rooms, including beverages and food items from Jake's Cafe, located on the hotel's ground floor, as well as fitness items including running shoes and related gear.
"The robot itself can navigate to the correct floor, open the elevator doors and close the elevator doors, get to the correct floor and when it arrives at the hotel room, right in front of the room it can actually call the guests in the room so they know that the robot has arrived," explained Yvette Vincent, Vice President of Information Technology Applications at Delaware North Companies, which operates the Westin Buffalo. "When they open the door, the robot will automatically open and deliver the contents."
The question was raised about the human help this robot might replace. Long stated that the unit cannot entirely replace people.
"You still need humans to put the stuff into the robot, to program the robot, IT resources," Long said. "I think it could add, in time, efficiencies - especially in larger properties - to be able to deliver amenities in a much more efficient time to the guests."
There was no word whether the hotel would acquire additional robots in the near future. In the meantime, the Westin Buffalo is hosting a contest via its social media platforms to name their unit. Four names are under consideration, all featuring a Buffalo reference: "Chip," which is a play on the hotel's location at Delaware and Chippewa; "Silo," which pays tribute to the city's grain elevators; "Grover," a salute to the former Buffalo mayor and United State President Grover Cleveland; and "Sally," in honor of Sally Johnson, wife of the first mayor of Buffalo, Ebenezer Johnson.