Those grumpy irritable and grumpy waiters and waitresses may soon be a thing of the past in China as the nation opened its first hotpot eatery manned by robots. The Dalu Robot restaurant in Jinan (northern Shandong province), China opened its door to the public last Dec. 2010.
The restaurant, where the hotpot meals are not as famous yet as the staff who never lose their patience and never take tips, is said to be China’s first robot hotpot eatery. More than a dozen Star War’s iconic C-3PO lookalike droids serve the traditional hotpot eatery. Each robot is equipped with a motion sensor that tells it to stop when someone is in its path so customers can reach for dishes they want.
Some robots operate as automated servers, roaming around the room on little bicycles carrying trays of meat and veggies in a conveyor belt-like system. Others, serve as greeters, entertainers, and receptionist. Among the crowd favorite is the front door receptionist, a female-looking android with fake fluttering lashes, who stands at the door to welcome diners in a soothing electronic voice. Another local hit is the female entertainer, clad in a cute girly dress, who never fails to amuse the guests with its antics.
Meanwhile, The Dalu Robot restaurant owner Zhang Yongpei, inspired by space exploration, robot technology and global innovation ,dreams of showing the World that China is a serious competitor in developing technology. “I hope this new concept shows that China is forward-thinking and innovative,” he said. Zhang to expand his business, putting 40 more units of robots– which cost $6000 each– and eventually to come up, with the help of the Shandong Dalu Science and Technology Company, with models that emulate human-like qualities that serve custormers at their table and can walk up and down the stairs.
The service industry in China has not always kept up with the country’s rapid economic growth. Thus it was a refreshing experience for some customers. “They have a better service attitude than humans,” said Li Xiaomei, 35, who was visiting the restaurant for the first time. “Humans can be temperamental or impatient, but they don’t feel tired, they just keep working and moving round and round the restaurant all night,” Li said.
Indeed, many patrons of the Dalu Robot restaurant in Jinan, Shandong’s capital, seem pleased with the idea saying at least these machines won’t grumble over tips and, most importantly, can’t spit in your food.
Automated machine servers has been sprouting like mushrooms. Last April 2010, a Japanese restaurant in Thailand also casted robots as waiters. Lapassarad Thanaphant shelled out 30 million baht ($927,600) for her Bangkok-based Hajime restaurant. The place is manned by its four motorised servants from Japan. Orders are placed on touchscreens while a lanky humanoid deliver the dishes, followed by some dance moves.