Touted as the nation’s first robotized restaurant, Merry-Go-Kitchen opened its doors in southeastern Seoul last month in collaboration with South Korean food-delivery unicorn Woowa Brothers.
At this establishment, placing an order for a meal starts by downloading the mobile application Baedal Minjok -- Baemin for short -- on your smartphone. On each corner of the table sits a QR code. You use the codes to access the menu, place an order and pay for your meal -- all with your phone.
One side of the rectangular restaurant has a conveyor belt where robots hand out cutlery, dishes, napkins and drinks. To return the robots after use, you press a red button below the conveyor belt.
For customers at tables far away from the conveyor belt, two robots take charge of delivery. Each has two sensors, one on top of its body and one on the bottom, to navigate the restaurant and find the right table while avoiding obstacles.
When the robot arrives at your table, you take your dishes and press a button on its screen to send it back to its original position.
Woowa Brothers, which provided the smart-ordering and robot-service system to Merry-Go-Kitchen, says the shop also serves as a showroom for prospective owners of robotized restaurants.
“Our ultimate goal is not about achieving unmanned restaurants but discovering and adopting the most practical robotic service solutions suitable for each restaurant,” Woowa Brothers public relations agent Sung Ho-kyung said.
With the launching of food-delivery app Baemin in 2010, Woowa Brothers revolutionized the domestic food service industry and has rapidly expanded to lead the market. In 2017, the firm embarked on a project to develop robotic services for the food industry and it has since been investing in technological advancements.
Furthermore, under the project named Yori -- meaning “cooking” in Korean -- the company partnered with UCLA’s robotics research team Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory in July to develop cooking robots that can perform various tasks from taking orders to preparing meals.
By Choi Ji-won (firstname.lastname@example.org)