Robot Waiters at Sci-Fi Restaurant Aid Socially-Distant Dining

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    (AP) At the UK’s first sci-fi robot-themed restaurant, droids don’t just decorate the walls, they deliver food and drinks too. It’s the brainchild of co-founder Mark Swannell, who for five years has built robotic creations using recycled materials and toured them around the country. After the success of a robot cafe at one exhibit, he and co-founder Joy Gittens decided to expand the concept to a permanent restaurant in the English city of Milton Keynes. “We did a small exhibit and we had a small cafe and a robot waitress. And from there, the interest there was so great that we thought; ‘Well this, we’ve got something going here, let’s expand on this, on the dining experience,'” says Swannell. Robotazia, as it’s known, opened in late August. In addition to the restaurant’s ten human workers – four robotic waiters bring drinks and dishes to guests’ tables. Although, customers still have to take the dishes and glasses from the droids’ trays. “I mean, children love it because there’s not many places you can go and get a robot bring the food to your table. And the robot speaks, so they get that interaction,” says Swannell. Swannell says there are even plans to expand the restaurant’s robotic workforce to include a robo-receptionist and one that can pull pints of beer. Pubs, restaurants and other entertainment venues across England are adapting to new government restrictions aimed at suppressing a dramatic spike in coronavirus cases. From Thursday September 24, they must close at 10pm. That’s no challenge to Robotazia, however, which usually shuts its doors at 9pm. But Swannell says the spike in Covid-19 cases has affected bookings. “Some people are cancelling, they’re not feeling very well, they’re being cautious and saying; ‘No, we’re not going to come,'” he says. “A lot of people still want to go out and enjoy themselves. This is the thing, they’ve been locked up for a long time. People still like to enjoy themselves, go out.” And that’s one feeling robots can’t understand, for now, at least. Robotazia is open six days a week, 12-9pm. Swannell hopes to eventually open a second restaurant to showcase more of his creations.

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