Robot wait­ers in China never lose pa­tience

The Pak Banker - - International -

JI­NAN: Ser­vice with a smile also comes with an elec­tronic voice at the Dalu Robot res­tau­rant, where the hot­pot meals are not as fa­mous yet as the staff who never lose their pa­tience and never take tips.

The res­tau­rant, which opened this month in Ji­nan in north­ern Shan­dong prov­ince, is touted as China's first robot hot­pot eatery where ro­bots re­sem­bling Star Wars droids cir­cle the room car­ry­ing trays of food in a con­veyor belt-like sys­tem.

More than a dozen ro­bots op­er­ate in the res­tau­rant as en­ter­tain­ers, servers, greeters and re­cep­tion­ists. Each robot has a mo­tion sen­sor that tells it to stop when some­one is in its path so cus­tomers can reach for dishes they want. The ser­vice in­dus­try in China has not al­ways kept up with the coun­try's rapid eco­nomic growth, and can be quite ba­sic in some restau­rants, lead­ing cus­tomers in the Dalu res­tau­rant to praise the ro­bots.

"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. In­spired by space ex­plo­ration, robot technology and global in­no­va­tion, the res­tau­rant's owner, Zhang Yong­pei, said he hopes his res­tau­rant will show the world China is a se­ri­ous com­peti­tor in de­vel­op­ing technology.

"I hope this new con­cept shows that China is for­ward­think­ing and in­no­va­tive," Zhang said. As cus­tomers en­ter the dimly lit res­tau­rant lined with blink­ing neon lights to sim­u­late a fu­tur­is­tic en­vi­ron­ment, a fe­male robot dec­o­rated with bat­ting eye­lashes greets peo­ple with an elec­tronic "wel­come."

Dur­ing the meal, crowds of up to 100 cus­tomers, are en­ter­tained by a danc­ing and talk­ing robot that looks more like a man­nequin with a dress, flap­ping its arms around in a stiff mo­tion. Zhang said he hopes to roll out 30 ro­bots - which cost $6,000 each - in the com­ing months and even­tu­ally de­velop ro­bots with hu­man-like qual­i­ties that serve cus­tomers at their ta­ble and can walk up and down the stairs. -Ap

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