image via John Ha

Pizza Hut in South Korea today announced it is rolling out a new robotic employee at one of its Seoul restaurants. While the robot is called Dilly Plate there, Spoon readers might know it better as “Penny,” the self-driving dish busser robot from Bay Area startup Bear Robotics.

Dilly Plate/Penny is a squat, bowling pin-shaped robot with a flat surface that can shuttle food and empty plates around a restaurant (humans still need to load and unload it). Penny is being put to work in smaller restaurants in California such Kang Nam Tofu House in Milpitas and the chain restaurant Amici’s Pizza — but now it’s about to travel the world.

The Korean Herald reports that Dilly Plate’s engagement at the Seoul restaurant is a little more limited, with Pizza Hut “employing” the robot for just a two-week test run.

The Herald, however, credits Dilly Plate as being developed by Woowa Brothers Corp., not Bear Robotics. This could be because Woowa invested $2 million in Bear Robotics in April of this year, or it could just be an oversight (we sent a note to Bear Robotics for clarification). On Linkedin however, Bear Robotics Founder and CEO, John Ha proudly exclaimed “Bear Robotics in Pizza Hut in Seoul Korea!”

Regardless of who gets credit, the bigger story here is the relentless march of robots into our restaurant experience. They are becoming ubiquitous. Dilly Plate/Penny expedites front of house service, while robots like Flippy fry up burgers in the back (or chicken tenders at the ballpark). And in restaurants like Spyce Kitchen in Boston, robots do all the cooking.

But it’s not just here in the U.S. — robots are going global. In addition to Dilly Plate in Korea, Ekim has its pizza-making robot restaurant in Europe, Alibaba has its robots scurrying around Robot.he in Shanghai, and MontyCafe will make you a latte in Russia.

All this automation means that traditional human-powered labor in restaurants is going away, or at least transitioning into a different role. Robots like Penny were designed to let humans focus on more high-level tasks like customer interaction. However, what will that transformation look like once the majority of foodservice jobs are taken by the ‘bots (which might happen soon as they’re quickly getting more dexterous)?

Want to learn more? Make sure to get your tickets for the Smart Kitchen Summit this October in Seattle, where you can catch Bear Robotics CEO John Ha speak about the future of food robots. See you there!

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