With the world being inundated with culinary choices, many are turning to more novel dining experiences to whet the appetite. Pitch-black restaurants with blind waiters, ice restaurants where patrons dine in frozen caves, and now a robot restaurant, where the cooking, ushering and in-house singing is performed by machines.
Located in Harbin, in China’s Heilongjiang province, the Robot Restaurant was established in June last year, and is fast growing in popularity.
Here patrons are greeted by robots ranging in size from 4.3 to 5.25 feet, which can display more than 10 facial expressions, and typically say, “earth person, hello, welcome to the Robot Restaurant”.
Guests are then electronically-ushered into their seats before they place their order, after which circuit coated chefs fire up the pans to do their bidding. The place has 20 specialty robots in all, including a dumpling and a noodle robot.
While guests wait, standardised singing specialists appear, providing ostensibly mellifluous entertainment.
Once the dishes are ready, they’re placed on a conveyor belt, where they reach a certain level before a robotic arm swoops in to set them down. Exceptionally stiff wait staff then transport any of the 30 meals available by gliding out on tracks in the floor.
Meanwhile, humans are tapping away in a computer room controlling the whole event, which includes giving meal breaks of electricity to robots needing a two-hour live feed every five hours.
Each one of these robots, says chief engineer Liu Hasheng, cost US$30 – 45,000. A further US$800,000 was spent setting up the restaurant.
While the Robot Restaurant has generally been met with approval, many of Harbin’s residents feel utterly defiled over the establishment.
Woo Chon, local plant worker, says not only is the restaurant depriving hard-up workers of employment, any idea of sauce on the side or hold the bacon is incomprehensible – to arguably the stiffest army of cooks since San Francisco’s culinary school for gays in the 70s.