At this Chennai restaurant, be served by robots

Swathi Moorthy Chennai | Updated on January 08, 2018

A bot serves food at Chennai’s Robot restaurant   -  Bijoy Ghosh

Country’s first bot-themed eatery attracts the curious

When Karthik Kannan and his friend Venkatesh Rajendran started a robot-themed restaurant in Chennai employing four service robots, they knew it was a huge risk. “There was this initial fear,” said Kannan.

A month later, there is a long queue of people, waiting impatiently to get a table in the restaurant. Kannan said: “It is mostly to just to have a look at robots.

“Honestly, we did not expect the restaurant to be this popular so soon. It is the initial curiosity that is driving people.” .

The 74-seater restaurant,named ‘Robot’, which serves Thai and Chinese food, is located on the Old Mahabalipuram Road. Earlier, Rajendran used to run a restaurant called Momo in the place. “We renovated the space, but retained the menu that served Thai and Chinese.”

Inside the dimly lit restaurant, which has fluorescent designs against a black décor, are four robots that navigate through tables, chairs and also curious children poking at them to serve food.

“Customers can order from a tab kept on each table, and one of the robots will serve food.

“We have also employed waiters since the idea of service robots is still new,” Kannan said.

“I’m an architect, and my partner Venkatesh has been in the food industry for the past four years. So we wanted to do something different.”

Service robots were something that fascinated them. The duo had been working on the concept for more than a year, but the challenge was lack of information.

“We were curious why these service robots were not in India when in China, they are pretty popular,” hesaid.

The duo decided to study the market first. Kannan went to China and Japan to understand how service robots work, and their challenges. “While buying the robots seemed easier, installation and servicing posed a huge challenge.”.

After scrutinising over a dozen to buy, Kannan stayed back in Japan for a 15-day training programme. “Thanks to the training, I have been able to solve issues by myself.” He is currently training his staff in trouble-shooting the bots.

Another challenge was bringing the robots to India. The Customs Department did not have an HS code, a unique code assigned to each product, for assembled robots. “We had to get special permission, use a combination of codes to bring them here.”

For Kannan and Rajendran, it has been a roller-coaster ride since the restaurant’s launch over a month ago. “We have been booked solid every day, and get a minimum of 300-500 calls a day,” Kannan said. The restaurant has customers from different parts of the State, such as Vellore, and even from other States like Assam. He agrees that it will be only a matter of time before the initial excitement wears off. “But we are already planning for more.We are planning to open another one in Anna Nagar in six months.” They are open for franchises as well.

Though he did not reveal their investment on robots, Kannan said it takes ₹2 crore to open a robot- themed restaurant. Though there are no authorised service centres available, Kannan said he and his staff will be able to handhold franchisees on the working the and nuances of service robots.

Published on January 02, 2018

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