pepper robot HMSHost
Pepper offers guest food and drink suggestions, as well as providing airport information like the locations of gates and restrooms.

HMSHost pilots humanoid robot at Oakland International Airport

“Pepper” joined the team at Pyramid Ale Taproom at the end of January to assist, inform and entertain travelers.

Robotic help is the ultimate in futuristic dream products—especially given the increasing challenges with labor and staffing.

A new program by global restaurateur HMSHost might be bringing that future one step closer as the company is currently piloting Pepper, a humanoid robot, at the Oakland International Airport.

Photo: HMSHost

HMSHost

With large expressive eyes and lifelike movements and gestures, Pepper stands four feet tall and greets and engages with potential guests at HMSHost’s Pyramid Ale Taproom in Terminal 2, offering assistance, menu recommendations and even directions to travelers.

“Part of our goal with Pepper is to draw travelers into our restaurant to relax and unwind before their flights,” says Jim Schmitz, vice president of Innovation at HMSHost. “Pepper adds a new dynamic entertainment experience. She helps HMSHost welcome travelers to try this restaurant when they might otherwise have just gone directly to their gate.”

Despite not being able to actually consume anything she sells, Pepper is more than happy to offer guests guidance on food and drink selections based on their personal taste preferences. She’s also a big proponent of Pyramid’s award-winning craft beer selection.

“We’re looking to capture results to see if we’re getting new guests into the restaurant who otherwise may not have come in,” says Schmitz. “We’re also taking into account traveler feedback and their reaction to Pepper.”

So far, HMSHost has seen positive reactions. Pepper has not only amused unsuspecting travelers, but they’ve taken time to explore what she has to offer and they’ve even ordered menu items based on her suggestions. She also features an interactive map displayed on her screen so that she can help travelers find their gate, restrooms, exits and more. 

“While we currently don’t have a specific timetable for Pepper, we are excited for what the future holds with offering travelers this unique, entertaining guest experience,” says Schmitz. “We are especially thankful to Oakland International Airport for being innovative with us and willing to explore new pioneering methods, such as Pepper, that elevate the traveler experience.”

Pepper is the result of a partnership between HMSHost and SoftBank Robotics America. She features dedicated applications built specifically for HMSHost.

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