China’s Robot Waiters: No Tipping Necessary

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A robot waiter cycles past customers at a robot restaurant in Jinan, Shandong province December 21, 2010.


A restaurant that opened this month in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong uses robots for waiters, boosting efficiency and providing further proof that human beings are superfluous. Machines don’t grumble over tips. And they can’t spit in your food.

The traditional hotpot eatery is staffed by more than a dozen automated servers, the distant and brightly colored relations of Star Wars’ golden droid C-3PO. The robots whir around the room on little bicycles carrying meat and veggies to be dipped by restaurant-goers into bubbling broth. Customers need not shout, weep or make obscene gestures to get their waiter’s attention. Every bot is equipped with motion sensors; all you have to do is get in one’s way and nab a plate of food.

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Indeed, patrons of the Dalu Robot restaurant in Jinan, Shandong’s capital, seem pleased with the change. “They have a better service attitude than humans,” Li Xiaomei, a newcomer to the place, which can seat 100, told the AP. “Humans can be temperamental or impatient, but [the robo-waiters] don’t feel tired, they just keep working and moving round and round the restaurant all night.”

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Restaurant owner Zhang Yongpei is hoping, eventually, to put 40 of the machines to work and come out, with the help of the Shandong Dalu Science and Technology Company, with models that can climb stairs. As it is, the droids don’t just serve. A female-looking bot with fake fluttering lashes stands at the door to welcome diners—if not warmly, then at least in a soothing monotone. Another, clad in a dress, flails its arms about—sort of—in an effort to entertain the crowd. OK, maybe humans still are good for something. (via AP)