The Lowdown: Theresa the robotic waitress

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Theresa the robotic waitress restaurant technology

Related tags Casual dining Technology

Tea room and restaurant chain The Tea Terrace claims to be the first in the UK and Europe to order in a robotic waitress to serve its customers.

Cor, the new Terminator movie sounds rubbish!
You joke, but this isn’t science fiction.

What’s going on then?
London-based restaurant chain The Tea Terrace, which owns and operates four restaurants and tea rooms across London and Surrey, says it has become the first in the country – and indeed Europe – to introduce a robotic waitress to serve its customers. Named Theresa, after former Prime Minister Theresa May, the robot has cost the brand £18,000 and has been introduced at its Oakdene Parade site in Cobham, Surrey.

Theresa eh… so is she strong and stable member of the workforce?
She certainly looks to be a steadier pair of hands, certainly capable of delivery a pot of tea and a slice of cake… although we doubt she’d fare any better if tasked with delivering Brexit. According to Ehab Shouly, managing director of The Tea Terrace, Theresa represents the sixth Generation of robotic waitresses, which were launched in Japan a few years ago, and comes with autonomous navigation, automatic obstacle avoidance, voice conversation, and automatic dish delivery.

Sixth Generation… so this isn’t a new thing?
Not really. Back in 2016, Pizza Hut in Japan began trialling Pepper, a 3ft humanoid robot that was able to interact with customers and even respond to questions about dietary requirements, giving info on calorie counts and fat content. It also featured a facial recognition system designed to monitor its customers’ emotions.

Blimey, should front of house staff be fearing for their jobs then?
That seems a bit premature. Shouly says he doesn’t plan to replace staff with robots, the idea is to help them and to make their job easier. And while she can clearly deliver orders to the table, she’s not exactly the most efficient sounding robot; being only able to serve a single customer at the time, and not able to move onto the next cover until someone taps her on the shoulder.

Doesn’t sound like a great use of £18,000. Are there any other robots we should be considering for restaurant work?
Robots and drones are already shaking up the home-delivery market, with meals delivered by autonomous wheeled and also flying drones in some countries (the former was trialled in London by Just Eat). Kitchen robots programmed to do very simple tasks – such as lifting fries out of the fryer or flipping burgers – are becoming increasingly commonplace, too. But for most restaurants it will be sometime before their employees need plugging in.

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