A fairly new server has just joined the Hao’s Lamb Restaurant team in Richmond.
And whether she’s in a mood, is rushed off her feet or unhappy about the tip, Bella - as her boss calls her - will always have a smile on her face.
That’s because Bella (real name PuduBot) is a robot, complete with an upward-facing infrared camera and four trays, which she has been busy using to transport dishes to and from the kitchen to hungry diners at the restaurant near Aberdeen Centre.
Once Bella arrives at the table, another staff member helps her remove a dish from one of its trays.
After which, the human staff member hits a confirm button atop the robot’s touchscreen to send it back to the kitchen.
“Although Bella just joined our team, she is super helpful. She allows other human staff to have time to concentrate on other tasks, such as packing takeout orders, greeting guests, clearing tables and refilling water,” said Zhengwen Hao, restaurant owner.
The restaurant “has been operating more efficiently than before. But, as such a hardworking employee, Bella never asks for any tips from me,” laughed Hao, adding that Bella can sing Happy Birthday to customers, in Mandarin and English.
Bella is actually a PuduBot, initially developed by Chinese-based Company Pudu Robotics, which was introduced by GreenCo Robots to the North American market, including Richmond.
Hao bought two PuduBots amid the pandemic in hopes of easing up the labour shortage and help with social-distancing rules, but he didn’t expect that his Bella could also boost business.
He said younger customers have been trying to interact with Bella, while many others snap photos and video of his new “staff member” hard at work.
Liang Yu, president of GreenCo Robots, told the Richmond News that many other local restaurants have invited robots to help them out during the busy season as the economy reopens.
One robot working at another Richmond hotpot restaurant has recorded that she has walked 10,000 metres and served up to 750 trays of dishes to customers within a day, said Yu.
“Robots are a great way to liberate human staff from meaninglessly repetitive and laborious work, allowing them to focus on other more complicated and interesting work, such as talking with guests.”
As for people concerned about the robots taking over from human servers, Yu said they are being introduced to help serve and make customers feel safer, with less human contact during the pandemic.