Lonely Planet Writer

Robot fail: humanoid waiters in China 'useless' at carrying soup and taking orders

A Chinese chain of restaurants has allegedly been forced to close two branches after the robot staff it had bought were found to be “useless”.

Heweilai, a robot restaurant chain in Guangzhou, is said to have closed two of three restaurants that were using the robots after it became clear they were unable to complete even basic tasks – including carrying soup and taking customer orders. Many were also reported to break down on a regular basis.

Pepper the robot
Pepper the robot (Kotaro Numata/AP)

The remaining restaurant is said to have only stayed open because it has removed all but one of the robot staff members, which are said to have cost around £5,000 each.

Humanoid robots are becoming more and more common as a means of assistance or guidance, with Pepper being one example, with several of the machines being put to use at a mobile phone store in Tokyo.

According to the Workers’ Daily in China, the head of the restaurant said that the only thing the robots were able to do was get customers through the door.

Human jobs in the service industry appear to be safe for now, despite the introduction of robotic bartenders in some locations, including new cruise liner Quantum of the Seas.

Robotics continues to expand rapidly as a science, with Google and US government agency DARPA regularly showing off various robotic creations in online videos, as well as holding competitions to find new designs that could be applied to different aspects of daily life.

China is also the world’s biggest buyer of robots, where rising labour costs and an ageing population have seen many in the manufacturing industry begin to explore new ways of keeping up production.