We tried it: Ramen served by a robot
A boy gasped as the waiter wheeled over his dinner. "That's a Roomba! A Roomba has our food!"
- Adults smirked and recorded videos while the little white robots with blinking blue eyes carefully maneuvered around tables, never spilling a single drop of hot ramen broth.
What's happening: More restaurants are dabbling in automation, which means robots preparing or serving meals could someday be commonplace. A new Dublin-area restaurant, Hiro Ramen & Tea, has already embraced the future.
Why it matters: For businesses, automation means lower payrolls and guaranteed staff amid a labor shortage. For customers, it ensures consistent food and service.
- Plus, who doesn't want to be greeted by a real-life Wall-E? You can't help but smile.
How it works: At Hiro, customers scan QR codes linked to their tables to place orders. An employee loads food onto the robot and it follows a pre-programmed path to deliver it.
- Push a button upon receipt and it retreats to the kitchen.
- Mala Hotpot near Hilliard also uses the machines from Keenon Robotics, which cost $13,000 each, per ThisWeek News.
Between the lines: It's unlikely we'll abandon human employees entirely, Jeff Burnstein, president of the Association for Advancing Automation, tells Axios.
- Ideally, humans could focus on personalizing customers' experiences, while robots do repetitive kitchen runs and mundane tasks.
What they're saying: "The technology is finally at a point where it can work side-by-side with people safely," Burnstein says. "If there's a labor shortage, that might be the difference between actually being open and not."
The big picture: Columbus-based White Castle is testing Flippy 2, a robot fry cook that can juggle fryer baskets and flip burgers.
- A fleet of Grubhub food-delivery rovers have roamed Ohio State's campus since last year. They're so popular they inspired a fan Instagram with nearly 10,000 followers and Etsy merch.
What's next: While front-end automation, such as order kiosks, are becoming ubiquitous, robot meal preparation is the next food service frontier, Axios' Jennifer A. Kingson writes.
💭 Alissa's thought bubble: Hiro's robots are as efficient as they are adorable. I was mesmerized, giggling every time one announced "your delicious meal is here."
- We aren't quite to the point of a full robot takeover — human employees were still busing tables and prepping food — so go check it out while it's still a novelty.
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