Is this the end for robots in the kitchens of Chinese restaurants?
In 2015, several restaurants in China replaced normal human employees, opting for futuristic robots, in the hope that these robots would attract the curiosity of customers, improve efficiency of services and reduce operation costs.
In December, a restaurant serving Japanese ramen made by robots made its debut in downtown Shanghai, joining the smart tech trend in service across China. In a video, Techinsider demonstrated how the robot chefs, Koya and Kona, make perfect noodles in only 90 seconds.
Asked why the restaurant opted for robochefs, Zhou, manager of the Moli Robot Restaurant, told the Global Times that employing the robots is actually cost-effective. "Normally, one robot can work three to five years, so they are definitely much cheaper than employing waiters and waitresses," he said.
Moreover, unlike humans, robots do not get ill. Therefore they do not take days off, maximizing their services for the whole year. While this shows a big saving compared to hiring a human employee, it looks like robots aren't ready to replace us just yet.
According to the Worker's Daily, out of three Guangzhou restaurants that used robots to serve customers, two have closed and the third has fired its robot waiters.
Heweilai, a Chinese restaurant in the southern Chinese city, introduced robots last year. In fact, The Verge reported that it invested in several robot waitstaff units worth $7,000 each for three of its restaurants. Unfortunately they have discovered that these robots are "incompetent," pushing them to shut down two of their restaurants and replace the robots with traditional waitstaff in their third restaurant.
"The owner had hoped to get more customers in the door, but quickly realized even $7,000 top-of-the-line robot workers are dumber and less competent than popular culture would have you believe," Grubstreet.com reports.
So why did the robots suddently become the downfall of the business?
As translated by The Verge, Workers' Daily wrote in an article that there was a human waiter who complained, "Robots were unable to pour hot water, carry soup, or take orders from restaurant patrons, and on top of that, often broke down."
In addition to not being able to function properly and attend to their tasks, the robots were also prone to repair and maintenance, making them more expensive to keep.
In an article by China Daily, Zhang Yun, a vice president at the Guangdong University of Technology, said robots may be useful to the manufacturing industry, but the technology definitely needs further development in the service sector.
Despite businesses shutting down because of robot waiter inefficiency, "Taste and Aroma," a Chinese restaurant in Guiyang, capital of China's Guizhou province, debuted their robot waiters this week. Mirror said there are a total of five robots in the restaurant costing around £4,500 each.
"They follow set tracks, bringing food directly to your table, while dodging stray children and diners heading out of their seats," the article reads.
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