Country Garden, a property developer in China, revealed that its subsidiary Qianxi Robot Catering Group (Qianxi Group) opened a restaurant complex operated completely by robots. Located in Shunde, which is a city in China’s Guangdong province, the restaurant eliminates most human-to-human contact and may be a harbinger of how businesses plan to handle the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak.
“Country Garden assistant executive officer and Qianxi Group general manager Qiu Mi explained that Qianxi Group has built a complete industry chain encompassing back-end supply production (the centralized kitchens) and robotic cooking alongside the operation of restaurants and the management of robots,” Country Garden shared.
The restaurant complex is 2,000 square meters or about 21,527 square feet, and it has 20 robots equipped to serve a variety of dishes, including Chinese food, fast food, clay-pot rice and hot pot. The menu has 200 items, but they are available within 20 seconds of ordering. The restaurant can handle 600 diners at once.
“During 2020, the group plans to build more centralized kitchens to further expand in the cities of Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, while achieving mass production of robots with an expected output of some 5,000 units per year,” Country Garden shared.
In the past, restaurants that used robots to greet guests or carry orders back to the table still relied on human chefs. The new restaurant complex removes humans completely from the food production and preparation stages with robots taking over all the tasks. To allay customers’ fears about dining in a fully-automated robot restaurant, Qianxi Group’s robots have received safety certifications.
“China officially released the technical specification for robot safety certification in the food sector on June 22. The technical specification, jointly formulated by the National Robot Testing and Accreditation Center (NRTAC) and Qianxi Group’s technology subsidiary Zhiyuan, is the first of its kind in the country. Qianxi Group’s lineup of second-generation robots, including some trained to cook clay pot rice and others trained to make mini-ice creams, have taken the lead in receiving China Robot (CR) certifications from the NRTAC,” Country Garden explained.
Part of the motivation for creating a restaurant complex run by robots without people is the coronavirus outbreak. Some customers are still afraid to return to restaurants even if the staff wears masks and sanitizes tables. Others are less hesitant but may feel safer knowing that there was no human contact with their food during the preparation of their meal. It is easier to sanitize a robot and its equipment than to make sure a human is completely disease-free.
The movement toward robot-controlled restaurants started long before the coronavirus outbreak. From robot fry cooks to robot greeters, eateries have been testing the technology for years. Now, concerns about health and safety while dining out are pushing the tech forward and increasing its acceptance.