It’s been long I wanted to visit the first Robot themed restaurant in India (at Chennai). Last couple of times, I planned to go, they were sold out (weekends). This time it was a weekday and hence decided to give it a try. We reserved a table through Dine-out. Most of you would have watched the whatsapp forward which went viral when the restaurant was launched. It’s predicted that Robots/ Automation will take over 800 million jobs by 2030. So I was even more inquisitive to know how the Robots were put to use in a restaurant and if it really impacted the jobs of humble waiters / servers! Is Robot a completely automated kitchen solution like Moley or something similar to the much publicized Atchayam Food box which was operational many years back in Chennai with an automated take away model. Robot is located bang on OMR near Sathyabama University. It's very difficult to identify the restaurant, if you are passing habitually through OMR, blame it on the sign board with a Robot image. It can be passed easily as a CAD or computer graphics training institute. I wished they had a better branding outside the restaurant.
The restaurant is in the first floor but it had lift. The interiors, even as you pass through the lobby, was very dark. It’s been quite a while I entered a dark restaurant, it reminded me of the late 90's when the restaurant business started to flourish here. The only difference between a restaurant and a regular hotel (non-ac Saravana Bhavan types) was the lighting. All restaurants opened during that period were dark and served Chinese food largely. Later this concept was changed with entry of International food chains. Robot is indeed a Chinese cuisine restaurant with some Thai Dishes too in their limited menu. But then who is bothered about the menu, we started looking out for the “Enthira Logathu Sundari”.
So this is how the system works. The moment we are seated a waiter (human) comes and explains to us about the ordering system using the Tab placed on the table. The menu as I told has limited Chinese and Thai options and regular deserts. Meanwhile we saw the Robots moving around through the alley between the tables. All were women. My daughter was expecting something like Chitti and was disappointed. They are programmed to use the same rotatory path and stop at the table which ordered the food. I assumed someone had to place the food on to the tray held by the Robot near the kitchen. The waiter still had to take the dish and place it on our table. So yes, manpower was still required and more so because they had to control the people around the Robot. Also, the robots can’t deliver to two tables in one attempt (yes, they also have productivity issues ;) or may be they needed a more complex algorithm. You also feel sad for these robots. There were several kids around and they were all running behind the Robots (remember that scene from "Anjali" movie? Without the tins though). Some were harassing the robots – pushing them, leaning on them, staring at them from top to bottom / front and back, one kid was desperately trying to poke its eyes. Another one switched if off on the way and he also managed to switch it on back. I had no clue how he found the switches, but I realized I need to start playing more video games.
We placed the order through the app which was simple and easy to use. We opted for one Chicken Clear Soup and Wow chicken for starter. Main dishes included Chilli garlic rice, Thai Red curry (served with white rice), Chilli chicken gravy and Hakka Chicken noodle. The best part was that the waiters were patient enough to explain us about the menu, the portion size and the spice levels. Soups are always served 1 by 2 (cool na?). Further, the waiters were patient and upbeat to click any number of photos for you along with the Robots. To our surprise the food arrived early. We were so excited to see the Robot coming towards us and turning to our table. The server had to pickup the dishes and place it on the table. The soup was just hot water flavoured with some chicken stock and few bland pieces of meat. The Wow chicken was indeed "Wow". It had all the flavors busting in your mouth. The ginger fried rice was good but the meat in it was/may be little stale. They had decent quantity which can be shared by two. My daughter loved the noodles though. The Red curry was good with strong coconut milk flavor but was far from authentic Thai cuisine. We avoided deserts, as there was nothing exciting other than fried ice creams. I had done the booking through Dine-out, hence got 10% off on the bill plus another 20% cashback since the bill was paid through the App. So please check for any online offers before you plan a visit.
So will Robots take away restaurant jobs? – it’s definitely a NO in India, atleast for another 5-6 years. The reason largely being the attitude and mind-set of people to accept this as an ongoing way of service. As I saw here, the Robots are used more as an attraction rather than for better productivity or cost benefit. So if you want to experience Robots deliver food up to your table or if you want to show your kids what Robots are all about…. then you definitely have to try Robot restaurant. Lastly I heard, they have opened a branch in Coimbatore as well. But, if you are in the mood to have great Chinese food, then look out for other options as the food here is strictly average. Don’t forget to check Dine-out for some cool offers.