News that a Japanese restaurant has attracted extensive amounts of business by harnessing the talents of a monkey raises some poignant questions about about reward and the battle for talent.
Guests dining at the Kayabuki restaurant, 60 miles north of Tokyo, are greeted by monkey-waiter Faku-chan, who has created such a stir that the eatery is booked out weeks in advance. One diner reportedly said the monkey had all the airs and graces of a French waiter at a posh restaurant.
However, it is not known whether the success of the high-performing, albeit slightly hairy, employee, who also delivers towels to customers at the end of their meal, could cast a shadow of doubt over the capabilities of human staff.
Just a couple of years ago, young chimps outperformed university students in memory tests devised by Japanese scientists. The findings of the research, published in Current Biology, suggest that us humans may have under-estimated the animals’ intelligence.
Of course, any employer looking to take advantage of our closest living relatives will have to adapt their reward package accordingly. Those wanting to appropriately reward chimps are well advised to consult research conducted in 2007 by the Yerkes National Primate Research Centre in Atlanta, Georgia.
The research, which appeared in the New Scientist, showed monkeys invest energy in a task if they perceive other monkeys are receiving a greater reward for making the same amount of effort. But another point worth noting is that the size of the reward does not figure highly with monkeys typically preferring a grape over a cucumber.