The robot restaurant

by on January 18, 2013 at 2:50 am in Economics, Food and Drink | Permalink

The Robot Restaurant opened in Harbin in June and has taken the F&B industry in China further into the mechanized world. Robot Restaurant staffs a total of 20 robots as waiters, cooks and busboys. Turns out Noodle Bot might need to expand its repertoire if it hopes to compete with Robot Restaurant’s 18 different kinds of service robots.

Upon arrival, Usher Robot welcomes customers to the restaurant and directs them to the seating area. Patrons can then place their order, which is relayed by humans to one of the four the robot chefs who are able to cook various styles of dumplings and noodles. The robot chefs even determine the temperature and ingredients for each dish and usually take about 3 minutes to prepare the average order. These robot chefs are no slouches either. The kitchen staff is able to prepare a menu of over 30 dishes–perfect for a family dinner.

Waitress robots carry the food to customers by following a track that uses sensors placed under the floor for spatial awareness. Additionally, each robot comes equipped with its own sensors, helping it to avoid obstructions such as a kid that’s in its way.

The robots were designed and built by a local firm, the Harbin Haohai Robot Company. Each robot costs between 200,000 to 300,000 Chinese yuan (US$31,500 – US$47,000) with an additional 5 million yuan (US$790,000) invested into the restaurant itself. With the average Robot Restaurant meal costing less than 62 yuan (US$10), the restaurant is not meant to earn Harbin Haohai money. Instead, it turns out the restaurant is just a brilliant piece of marketing.

The story is here, there is more here, and for the pointer I thank Daniel Klaus.  By the way, here is a related 2010 MR post but it seems the robots are getting better.

Ray Lopez January 18, 2013 at 6:21 am

What is the rule about never going to a “theme restaurant” for the food, but only for the atmosphere?

dan1111 January 18, 2013 at 6:41 am

I think the rule is to avoid restaurants with lots of beautiful robots (that joke is not stale at all, right?)…

Jan January 18, 2013 at 6:51 am

Ask the robot for a recommendation, and make sure that it prepares the food exactly like they eat it at home. Be very clear that they should not tone it down for the humanoid.

Brian Donohue January 18, 2013 at 10:14 am

They’ve disabled the spit function, right?

Zachary January 18, 2013 at 10:56 am

The Writer is obviously sexist. What makes a robot a waitress rather than a waiter?

Ryan January 18, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Clearly their attire. I thought the same thing; then watched the video. It wasn’t apparent which were waiters or waitresses. He should have used “Server Robots” to ensure the PC crowd doesn’t get all up in arms.

Saturos January 18, 2013 at 11:51 am

So 100 years from now every household will have a robot chef? Programmable with any recipe, so cookbooks and cooking shows die?

JWatts January 18, 2013 at 12:59 pm

“so cookbooks and cooking shows die?” No, they are just broadcast in binary. ;)

msgkings January 18, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Well played, Mr Watts.

Actually like most services that robots will eventually take over, there will always be hipster demand for human performance. The hipsters will pay a premium to actually have humans cooking and serving.

But yes, a good deal of basic regular home cooking will be automated.

JWatts January 18, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Is that really a picture of a robot waitress cruising past a table with a bin full of beer?

Hmmm….

Enter restaurant. Look for large table full of heavy drinkers. Tactically, select table in between bar and large table. Order water. Enjoy ‘free’ refreshments.

dan1111 January 20, 2013 at 3:33 am

This plan assumes there is no taserbot.

Nicoli January 18, 2013 at 2:20 pm

This concept would probably work well in DC. I’d much rather than be served by a soulless robot than a soulless hipster.

Donald A. Coffin January 18, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Does Martin Ford know about this? (See the links post above.)

Andrew M January 18, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Sushi conveyor belts solved this problem a long time ago.

TR W January 18, 2013 at 11:39 pm

People are servants to the robots in that restaurant. It’s how I expected a Chinese restaurant with robots to be. The robots are simple and the decor is all over the place. It looks cheap. I think other techies would be disappointed in the simplicity of the restaurant, they probably are familiar with or own a robot similar to the ones they have. They would expect something more clever.

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