Disciplined, demure and other-worldly, the robots knew exactly where to deliver. Every table had a digital tablet, and the customer just had to pick and choose, order and await his/her turn. Once the food was ready, the kitchen assigned a robot ready for despatch.
In 10-15 seconds flat, her path digitally marked out, the robot would head out with the food neatly arranged on a tray. At the assigned table, she turns to greet and guide the customer to pick up the dish. Awestruck by their first brush with a robotic bearer, dozens simply stared.
For Venkatesh Rajendaran, the Robot Restaurant founder, IT hub Bengaluru was the obvious next step after foraying into the business in his native city Chennai and Coimbatore. The launch of the first in February 2017 had triggered a mighty storm.
Rajendran is sure the 100-seater Bengaluru outlet would mimic that euphoria. To guarantee its success, he had an advanced Android robot at the reception, ushering in customers, guiding them to a vacant table and answering their every query.
The robots were programmed to treat every customer as king, but customisation was supreme. So, for the Saturday launch, every robot wore a scarf and a name. From Harini to Shikha, Janja to Yashwini, they trooped in and trooped out, circling the dining space, rolling on a magnetic sensor-lined mat.
But the names were dynamic, customisable. Beckoning youngsters in droves, the restaurant people harboured an idea to gamify it. “We plan to have contests for best names,” chipped in Kailash Sunder Rajan, general manager, franchise operations.
The Android robot, ready to usher in the big crowds, was already designed for next-level customisation. “Equipped with face recognition, she can greet you by your name on your next visit. Of course, she will do that only with your permission,” said Rajan, brushing aside privacy concerns.
So, how does the city outlet stand out from the rest? Mini trains on side-tracks. For a first-timer, yet to recover from the robotic onslaught, the trains meant ‘Tatkal’ service. Their jaws dropped again when the soups and starters came chugging in on tracks at arm’s length from the table.