By Xu Aiying and Lee Jihae
Videos = Xu Aiying, dal.komm YouTube channel
Seoul | Oct. 8, 2020
"I'm so busy, so busy."
Robots on Oct. 8 looked quite busy at the Yeoksam Station branch of No Brand Burger in Seoul's Gangnam-gu District. A cooking robot was baking buns and frying patties based on order sequence and menu item. After cooking, it piled the food on a robot server.
The monitor on the robot server's head showed the order number and the sentence "A delicious menu is on its way." The robot moved through the tables and went toward the pick-up zone, where customers were waiting. As soon as it reached the pick-up zone, its screen read, "Enjoy your meal." The customer then checked the order number and picked up the food.
Opening on Sept. 8, the branch installed robot servers to stem COVID-19 by minimizing contact between staff and customers.
Customers watched the robot go back and forth between the counter, where buns and patties were prepared, and the pick-up zone.
Office worker Lee Myeong-geun said, "I'm increasingly worried about contact with other people because of COVID-19. So I think a robot server is a practical but fun idea."
As COVID-19 has ushered in a noncontact era, robots have gone from undergoing test trials at large coffee franchises to becoming more common in daily life. They are often seen at regular restaurants, and their role has been expanded to aiding chefs instead of just serving.
Robert Chicken, also located in Gangnam-gu, has two robot chefs. When an order is made, one covers the chicken in batter and the other fries the chicken.
The staff ensures that the fried food is not stuck together, sees if any ingredients are missing and packs the food. This store allows only delivery and takeout and can cook up to more than 100 chickens a day.
Robots also serve as baristas making coffee at cafes. Beat, a robot cafe at Lotte World Mall in Seoul's Songpa-gu District, has a robotic barista named Robin that moves its arms to lift cups, insert ice and extract coffee.
Through the window, the robot can be seen making coffee, and it even smiles at customers. It receives orders through a mobile app and kiosk and can customize the type of coffee bean, amount of syrup and density of the coffee based on customer preferences.
Given the expansion of noncontact culture due to COVID-19, Beat will expand to shopping malls, colleges, apartment complexes and highway rest areas, and thus do the same for its robot barista.