A restaurant in Ningbo introduces robot serving service

Dishes served by robots in a restaurant? And it's not a scene happening in a science fiction film either! In a restaurant in Cixi, Ningbo, several robots are “full time” waiters serving customers with huge curiosity to see how robots delivery the dishes to the table automatically.

This restaurant has just opened and currently there are 5 robots in total: two of them are responsible for serving the dishes with the ability to report various names of dishes; the remaining three of them are dancing in front of the door to entertain passers-by. On December 24th, the restaurant was filled with customers attracted by the novelty. Some of the customers ask when entering: “Where are the Robots?” The staff point at the location of the kitchen with his finger. There, two robots around 1.5 meters are patiently waiting at the food windows. On the floor, there is a black line circling the whole hall, which is said to be created a few days ago and function as optical magnetic induction orbit – the route of serving dishes for the robots. Additionally, every dining desk has an induction spot where the robots stop and serve.

At 5’o clock in the afternoon, the restaurant, which is approximately 1000 square meters, begins to welcome the influx of customers. The boss launches the application, and then there’s a smile expression on the “face” of the robots, meaning they are turned on and ready to start working. A customer tries to order a pineapple bun, and immediately a robot is “walking” there slowly to the desk with a pineapple bun on the tray. “Hello! This is your pineapple bun. Please take away the tray.” the robot says. After the customer takes the tray, the robot leaves with the words “Please enjoy your meal!” If someone blocks the robot on the way, the robots will stop right away and say: “I'm blocked, please give way to me, thank you!” Meanwhile, some customers who finished dining watch the performance of three little robots. They are “dancing” and singing pop songs such as little apple, gangnam style etc. The staff say the words and the actions are set in advance. They are also considering adding local dialect to the robots in order to increase the familiarity for the locals.

According to the boss, the idea originally came from the thought of saving labor costs. After calculating, the boss considered the cost of hiring real waiters was much higher than robot waiters and the robots waiters could work for a far longer time. However, there were two unexpected occurrences after the trial operation. One is that out of curiosity, many people tried to push and beat the robots, causing damage to the induction function of them. The other thing is that a lot of customers were actually tempted by the robots, resulting in around 300 thousand yuan turnover everyday. “In the long run, using robots to serve is a good thing for our restaurant.” the boss says. Moreover, he mentions that the industry in Shanghai is developing the second generation robot, which he is going to use in his new robot-theme restaurant utilizing robots for both ordering and serving. The customers only need to swipe the card on the desk to enjoy the one-stop robot service.

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