Sushi Village’s newest server is a cutie with almost four feet in height and has feline good looks. She can tackle around 40 kilograms of food simultaneously and manage to wait on four tables of customers as she moves through the dining room. Her name is Bella, short for bellaBot.
“We love it! The robot is very helpful and really popular,” says Joselyn Liang, manager of the Rideau Street restaurant. “All the customers want to take videos. Customers ask for service from the robot and not us.”
Bella is not the first of its kind in Ottawa. Three other BellaBots have been deployed, at Hokkaido Sushi on Dalhousie Street and at the Hockey Sushi locations on Merivale Road and Carling Avenue.
KettyBot is BellaBot’s cheaper cousin and was the first one in town to work as a robot waiter at Mekong Restaurant in Chinatown.
These five robots in Ottawa are made by Pudu Robotics, a five-year-old company in Shenzhen, China, that has already sold thousands of units in its homeland.
Toronto has roughly 50 restaurant robots, says Cora Cao, an Ottawa-based sales representative with S.P.A.R.C. Technologies, Pudu’s primary distributor in most of Canada. More sales are estimated from Ottawa next year.
“We have many (Ottawa) clients that want to try our robots after Christmas,” Cao says. She first approached the Ottawa market in late November, offering free trials that led to the five sales. The KettyBot retails for $15,000, while a BellaBot goes for $23,000. Rentals start at $500 a month, Cao says.
Winnie Zhang, Mekong’s owner, calls her KettyBot “brand new technology for the new world we are in right now.”
Zhang sees the robot not only as a machine doing work that a human won’t do, but considers it a better alternative.
“The robot can do half of the waiter’s job,” she says. “I can put one or two (waiters) on the floor and the robot can do the rest. It can cut down a lot of expenses for the payroll.”
Zhang also states that in January, the minimum wage for Ontario’s servers will rise for humans. “The robot never gets a salary increase,” Zhang says.
Also, there is a 50 percent cap on restaurant capacities, Cao says the business will not have to pay Employment Insurance for its robots.
Mekong Asian Cuisine’s newest waiter is a robot called KettyBot
It can deliver dishes to patrons at their table and can even sing Happy Birthday. Its price is almost $15,000.
Cao acknowledges some people are concerned about robots replacing humans in the workforce. The Pudu products “just make the workers’ work easier,” she says.
The robots with feline features can tell simple jokes, the weather and sing Happy Birthday if asked. There have been a few calls from customers asking if the robot could serve them.
“It’s kind of a special experience, right?” Liang says.