A popular ramen restaurant in Japan known as Kourakuen is planning to introduce new members of staff soon: robot servers. The newcomers, which were first spotted by Kotaku, start their shifts at the end of August. Customers can expect to see machines called K-1 deliver their ramen orders in place of the usual, human wait staff. Clearly the ramen chain is attempting to encourage more social distancing and contactless delivery in our age of COVID-19. But it's also making our childhood dreams come true while making us hungry.
Get ready for more — Robotic waiters may seem a little bizarre, but then, the world these days is bizarre. With businesses slowly reopening and resuming their day-to-day work, restaurants have had to grapple with one serious question: if we reopen and let customers in, how do we ensure their safety without compromising our (human) staff's health?
In China, robot servers are already taking people's orders, moving dirty dishes back to the kitchen, and clearing up tables among other duties. Still, it may take the rest of the world a while to adjust to our new robot assistants.
Additionally, automating human work can make many waiters feel uncomfortable and worried about their employment. Businesses will have to weigh the cultural and economic pros and cons of bringing machines into the mix.
No judgment zone — If you're a ramen fiend like I am, you're probably familiar with Ichiran Ramen. The entire concept of dining solo was made cool and popular by this Japanese restaurant. I tried a variation of it in Brooklyn, New York several years ago and it turns out solo dining solo is relaxing. Cathartic even. And free of any judgment if you order a mountain of food... or two desserts.
While robot-delivered ramen is not exactly dining solo — you could be having ramen with your a date, friends, or family — it still removes some human interaction from the equation like Ichiran Ramen does. In the former's case, a bamboo partition keeps you and the restaurant staff separated while you dig in. In the latter's case, you get your delicious bowl from a machine. Like practically every other facet of life, COVID-19 has impacted how we go to bars and restaurants, and what we wear to them. Robot helpers might be weird right now, but we'll get used to them soon enough. Thankfully, we're an adaptable species. Well, most of us are, anyway.