Robot Waitress Reportedly Helps Double Sales at Pizza Shop in Pakistan

The technology is still shaky, but an Oxford University study suggests that the robot takeover may come sooner than expected.




 

With the hiring of a new waitress, sales have doubled at Pizza.com, a pizza shop in Multan, Pakistan.

The AFP describes the pizzeria’s popular server as short and slender, with a long dress, an apron and a scarf around her neck.

So what makes this waitress so special? Did we forget to mention that “she” is a robot?

Osama Jafri, an engineer, designed the 55-pound robot specifically to work at the pizzeria, which is owned by Jafri’s father, Aziz. It can greet customers and bring their food to their tables. Aziz Jafri says he has three more robots ready to go to work and plans to open a second shop. “I used to sell pizzas, but now restaurant owners want to buy robots from me,” he told the AFP.

“The response that we got is actually tremendous,” Osama Jafri added. “People are loving it—my friends, family members and all the local people here. Half of our customers are children, who enjoy placing orders with a robot waiter and being served by her.”

Osama Jafri didn’t invent the first robot server. Together Restaurant in central Beijing creates a unique experience for customers with robotic waitresses like one called Nuo Nuo, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Chinese government “has been pushing a pro-robot agenda, and some restaurants have taken up the cause.”

“Customers are not just focused on the food,” said Together Restaurant owner Wang Peixin. “They also want a fun experience. Consumers have different expectations.” Peixin said he paid about $900 apiece for his robots, which amounts to two months’ salary for the average Chinese worker.

 

Other restaurants in China also employ robotic servers that deliver dishes and collect empty plates. According to The Star, robots are being used in 25 sectors in China, including foodservice, electronics and automobiles.

Robots have made headway in the U.S. labor force, too, and a 2015 study from Oxford University paints a grim picture of the future for human workers. That study, authored by Dr. Michael Osborne and Dr. Carl Benedikt Frey, estimated that 47% of jobs in the U.S. are “at risk” of being automated. Occupations within the service industry are “highly susceptible” to a robot takeover, the study notes.

But the technology still has a long way to go. The robotic servers need a helping hand from flesh-and-blood employees to accomplish even the simplest tasks. “The robot still requires humans to put the dish on its tray and input the commands for the robot to work,” Peixin told the WSJ. “If the technology is more advanced, the robot can pick up the dishes automatically and deliver them on its own. Then it will be truly more efficient and impressive.”

Nuo Nuo, the robot waitress at Together Restaurant, isn’t exactly a fascinating conversationalist, as the WSJ’s video report notes.

Wang Peixin: Let’s go eat.

Nuo Nuo: Nuo Nuo will immediately take you to the manager’s office.

Wang Peixin: I want to eat. Why do you want to take me to the manager’s office?

Nuo Nuo: No, you cannot give other people’s things a way.

 

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