Restaurants in China sack ‘dumb’ robot chefs and waiters

About 10 robots employed as chefs and waiters in restaurants in China have been fired after their owners found them not smart enough. Employing artificial intelligent robots in restaurants has not proved such a smart idea after all, media reports said.

A number of restaurant owners have chosen to fire about 10 robots because they were just not clever or sophisticated enough to do their jobs properly, Xiamen Daily reported.

The plug has been pulled on a number of the robots employed as chefs and waiters only a few years after a catering business in the seaport city of Xiamen, in southern Fujian province, employed them instead of people, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post quoted the daily as saying.

Another restaurant, which opened last October, made headlines for using four automated waiters that were able to take orders and deliver food to customers’ tables.

Now only two of them remain, to greet customers as they arrive, with the other two apparently canned. “The robots were virtually not intelligent at all,” an employee at the restaurant called ‘Chopsticks Passion’ said.

While the robot waiters were an excellent gimmick to woo customers, they were not quite so good at their programmed task of serving food and drink to customers, the report said.

“They were merely standing there to look fancy,” a worker said. “The mobility of the catering staff was great, we initially recruited six for service, but after a year we only retained one,” according to a hotpot restaurant supervisor.

Another robot-themed restaurant closed down less than six months after its opening. Past diners had complained that dishes prepared by the robot chefs were “unpalatable”.

“The food was not tasty at all and the whole restaurant was very smoky because of the poor cooking skills of the robot chefs,” one diner said.

For a restaurant to employ a robot worker it must pay about 50,000 yuan (over USD 7,700) for each robot and then several hundred yuan each month for its upkeep, including repairs, plus electricity.

So far the low-cost robot automated waiters and cooks had proved they were not up to the job of working as restaurant waiters and chefs as they were not sufficiently intelligent enough to carry out their assigned tasks competently, Zhang Ji, of the robot manufacturer Yingqu Technology, said.

“Human beings can react to their environment effectively, but these robots are not able to do so,” Sun Qimin, chairman of Siert, another robot maker, said.

The current state of robotics and artificial intelligence means that the technology is not quite advanced enough for robot waiters to work effectively, one expert said.

Quoted by the Shanghaiist website, Zhang Yun, a specialist at Guangdong University of Technology, says that while robots are good at repetitive tasks in manufacturing, they are still unable to perform autonomously in jobs such as waiting which require interaction with unpredictable humans.