I Robot at Chinese Buffet

21st January 2021

The Chinese Buffet, a nine-strong chain of restaurants across the north of England, has introduced robot waitresses to serve customers.

Owners Paolo Hu and Peter Wu have four “BellaBot” robots which talk to and serve customers and even sing Happy Birthday.

The Chinese Buffet spokesman, David Ramsden, said: “It’s quirky and customers love it. We have people doing TikToks, others saying the children loved the robot. During the pandemic, because people needed to remain seated, rather than being a traditional buffet it became a table-service buffet. You ordered via the app and it was delivered directly to your table, but that became much more onerous on the waiting staff. With covid issues causing staff issues, most often in hospitality, it’s difficult to get the staff, so robots became top of mind. It’s timely because there’s a big staffing issue in hospitality.” The robots have four shelves and so can serve four tables at once, freeing up staff to interact with customers and address other issues, according to Ramsden.

He added: “I was in one restaurant on Sunday evening talking to the managers, and they wouldn’t do without them now. They were sceptical to start with, but since they’ve had them, they make a massive difference. It’s primarily to solve the staffing crisis, but the reality is, it’s making such a difference to the restaurant that it will become much more commonplace. We’re now importing the robots and providing them to anybody that needs them – with hospitality being the initial target market.”

The Chinese Buffet has branches in Bolton, Wigan, Liverpool, Blackpool, Bury, Darlington, Huddersfield, St Helens and Wakefield.

Tea Room brand Tea Terrace recently introduced its second robot waitress, in its new Woking branch, while Gravity Southside has employed a team of three android restaurant staff since opening last summer.

Tech-led Chinese restaurant ShaXian Delicacies, which launched its second site last October in London’s Chinatown, also features a noodle-chopping robot in its window.