Haidilao, which operates a hotpot restaurant chain, has partnered with Panasonic to open up a robot-run kitchen in Beijing on October 28. The new automated kitchen will reportedly be used to help Haidilao expand to up to 5,000 locations around the world.
According to Bloomberg, the new Haidilao location will feature robots that “will take orders, prepare and deliver raw meat and fresh vegetables to customers to plop into soups prepared at their tables.”
The two companies say the Beijing Haidilao will be the world’s first restaurant with a fully automated kitchen. We don’t have many details on exactly how the automation technology will work at the new Haidilao, but it seems like Spyce in Boston may already have that mantle.
Regardless of who is or isn’t first, Haidilao’s Beijing robotic restaurant most certainly won’t be the last. Haidilao and Panasonic have formed a new $20 million joint venture called Ying Hai Holding Pte. to manage the automated expansion. They’re also planning to establish 5,000 Haidilao locations, up from the current 360.
A Ying Hai rep told Bloomberg that a shift to automated labor instead of human labor will make that aggressive growth more feasible.
As we have covered quite extensively, robots are all the rage in the restaurant biz around the world. In addition to the aforementioned Spyce (which just raised $21 million), there is also Cafe X‘s coffee-slinging robot barista, Caliburger’s burger-cooking Flippy, Creator‘s burger building robot, and, over in France, Ekim‘s pizza-making robot. Bringing it back to Asia there’s the Seoul, Korea Pizza Hut which uses Bear Robotics’ Penny and Alibaba’s Robot.he restaurant in Shanghai. Elsewhere in China, JD.com plans to open 1,000 of its own robot restaurants.
Robots are really good at repetitive, manual tasks — like chopping or cooking the same thing over and over again. A robot won’t get burned on a hot stove or cut itself (or take a smoke break). So automation make a lot of sense for high-volume restaurants where the menu and cooking procedures are the same every day.
Of course, opening up more than 4,000 automated restaurant locations means fewer jobs for us humans. Right now, that feels like a more abstract problem since robot restaurants are still somewhat of a novelty. But if half of us are cool with robots preparing our food, and it’s cheaper for companies to implement (perhaps translating into cheaper food for us), eating at a restaurant like Haidilao could easily become the new normal — but working at one will become more rare.