KOCHI: In a shrewd business move, a multi-cuisine restaurant here has brought in four female robots to serve patrons. ‘Thakkaram’ at Palarivattom is now the first ‘robot’ restaurant in the city. To give them a human connect, the robots are called Thara, Anna, Seba and Susi. While Thara ushers in customers, Anna, Seba and Susi will deliver the menu, plates, glasses and food.
“The main aim is to attract more customers to the restaurant. The robots are a major source of entertainment and children simply love them. This also gets the restaurant a great deal of publicity,” said Aslam CP, general manager, Thakkaram.
According to him, the hotel management did an in-depth feasibility study before going in for the idea.
“Rather than the positives, we chiefly focused on the drawbacks of appointing a robot. Indeed, there are drawbacks involved and we wanted to ensure that they didn’t affect our service. So a six-month-long study was conducted,” said Aslam.
Imported from China
The robots, each of which costs around Rs 8 lakh, were imported from China. Their movements are controlled with the help of a ‘robotic app’, which includes automatic and manual controls. “The floors have a laser duct through which the robots move. They have a sensor in the front which detects the movement of people to avert collisions. They have a touchpad on their hands which can be tapped to restart their movement after serving,” according to Aslam.
No replacement for humans
Despite the novelty of the idea and the apparent benefits, the restaurant management reiterated that these robots can never replace humans.“Though directed to the correct table, the plate, food and glasses need to be taken by the customers or served by the employees. Also, issues with Wi-fi or the laser duct can halt their movement. So the introduction of robots in any restaurant shouldn’t mean that fewer human staffers are needed,” says Aslam.
Rise in number of customers
After the restaurant brought in robot waiters, the number of customers has increased, with the elderly and children among them even posing for selfies in the company of Thara, Anna, Seba and Susi, said Shihab Ibrahim, managing director, ‘Thakkaram’. “Children and the elderly are amused by the robots and want to take selfies with them. Childen even insist on the robots serving them,” he says.