A British chain of restaurants and tea rooms based in London has become the first in the UK and Europe to introduce a robotic waitress to serve its customers. This is a pilot for the introduction of more robots in its workforce in the future in the face of rising labour costs.
Ehab Shouly, Managing Director of The Tea Terrace, which owns and operates four restaurants and tea rooms in Cobham, Central London and Guildford, announced the launch of Theresa the robotic waitress at The Tea Terrace’s newest branch on Oakdene Parade in Cobham, Surrey.
“We’ve christened the robot Theresa in a nod to the media’s nickname for former Prime Minister Theresa May. But our robot is far more intelligent than the vast majority of our British politicians, and she would easily juggle her job as a waitress at our restaurant and running the country,” Shouly joked.
The Tea Terrace, which was recently in the news after it became the first restaurant to introduce the Selfieccino – a cappuccino with your selfie printed on it using edible food colouring – is the first restaurant in Europe and the UK to introduce the highly-advanced robot which can communicate with customers.
Shouly also said: “Theresa represents the 6th Generation of robotic waitresses which were first launched in Japan a few years ago. The robot comes with autonomous navigation; automatic obstacle avoidance, voice conversation, and automatic dish delivery. It integrates core technologies in automatic control, multi-sensor perceptual collision avoidance and route planning.“
The robot waitress comes with a double-tray which greatly reduces waiters’ repeat work such as food and drink delivery and carrying heavy trays of drinks such as teapots. “We don’t plan to replace our staff with robots entirely. But the idea is to help them and to make their job easier,” said Shouly, the founder and co-owner of The Tea Terrace.
The robot not only delivers the dish or the drink to the table, but also speaks to the customers and tells them what she is serving, i.e. the name of the dish or the drink being served. She then asks them to tap its arms so that she can go back to her base to serve other customers.
“If Theresa senses a person in its route, it will stop and then frown and ask the person to move out of its way before she continues on her way. This is part of the safety mechanism we developed for her with the robotics laboratory that manufactured Theresa for us in Japan,” Shouly said, adding that Theresa uses laser-guided trackless navigation and ultra-sonic obstacle avoidance.
Theresa has been a hit with customers who are surprised to see a robot working as a waiter. “It’s a great conversation starter, especially that we put a Theresa May wig on her for fun. And we programmed her to say “Breakfast Means Breakfast” to poke fun at the former Prime Minister’s repeated Brexit Means Brexit statement,” Shouly said.