Robots put to work in two Vancouver Island restaurants


Robots with cat faces are heading to two Vancouver Island restaurants to deliver food and drink to customers at a time when the hospitality industry is in desperate need of staff.

Customers are delighted with the devices, which can be programmed to perform a multitude of tasks. They sing happy birthday – with flashing multicolored lights – and will greet customers.

The robot is cute. The BellaBot model has big round eyes, a smiling mouth and will change expression. Approach him and the robot will move automatically to avoid a collision.

Restaurants like the efficiency of robots because they reduce the number of staff trips to and from the kitchen.

Clair Zhang, co-owner of Nanaimo’s Driftwood Restaurant, 4711 Rutherford St., said on Friday that Bella Holt (the robot’s nickname) was “really helpful.”

The bots also function as marketing tools for companies breaking out of pandemic restrictions and wanting to take their seats.

Bella is primarily used to transport take out orders from the kitchen to customers at the front door of Driftwood Restaurant. The packaged meals are transported to the shelves of the robot.

Driftwood secured Bella over the summer as part of a three-year capital lease program with Edmonton supplier GreenCo Robots, which imports them from manufacturers in China.

In Mantra, 1015 Fort St., owner Dharmendar Sohal said he bought the robot because the restaurant is understaffed. “It’s a good option for us. … It’s a good helping hand.

Customers are happy when they see Robbie the robot and enjoy interacting with him, especially young people, he said. When the children stroke the robot, it smiles, its eyes move and it meows.

Sohal will likely get a second robot for Mantra’s other location at 3480 Tillicum Rd.

He expects a new version, capable of taking orders, to be available soon.

Fort Street Mantra manager Dharna Sohal said Robbie attracts a lot of new customers. They share videos of the robot in action as it delivers food and drinks to tables and tell their families about it.

“When we’re busy it’s like an extension of me. I can do two things at the same time, ”said Dharna Sohal.

It is programmed to know the tables by number. Its sounds and volume can be changed. Robbie greets customers at the front and escorts them to their tables.

The robot is charged overnight and can run for 12 hours on its battery.

When Robbie sat quietly at Ian Reid’s table, it was easy to figure out what to do. An order of naan bread sat on the top shelf, which lit up.

“You just pick your item off the shelf, then you press a button on his face that says ‘done.’ Then the eyes go up, it smiles and let’s go.

Sometimes the “face” will disappear, depending on what it is doing.

Liang Yu, owner of GreenCo Robots, said he has sent around 30 BellaBot robots across Canada and has a waiting list for 10 more. “There is definitely a good demand in the market. “

The first in British Columbia went into service at a Richmond fondue restaurant.

Depending on the model, the robots cost just under $ 20,000 and up to $ 30.00.

The lease-to-buy program costs less than $ 1,000 per month for three years, he said.

Robots roll around without hitting people or furniture using tracking and mapping technology.

They can be used for events like business mixes, as robots can roll around a room carrying food and drink. A robot will stop whenever someone touches it, Yu said.

A study of a restaurant robot found that it made around 500 trips in a day and delivered around 750 meals, Yu said.

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