The travel hub food and beverage operator is later this month trailing six service robots at its Sip & Stone Restaurant and Bar at Belfast International Airport.
Working with GW Robotics & Stephens Catering Equipment, SSP will test the effectiveness of using the service robots to help servers with their day-to-day tasks. The robots, it says, will staff to be able to spend more time with customers.
Two types of robots will be introduced: a service robot called ‘BellaBot’ will bring food and drinks from the kitchen while ‘HolaBot’ will collect plates and cutlery once customers have left their tables.
HolaBot can be called remotely by colleagues to clear any section of the restaurant as necessary. Bella Bot is also equipped with a voice and screen system and can greet customers for a true human-robot interaction.
"Investing in new technology with a view to improving the customer experience is one of the core tenets of our business at SSP. The nature of our business means we serve a lot of customers, and we need to serve them quickly,” says Richard Lewis, CEO at SSP UK & Ireland.
“These robots will enable our colleagues to spend more time front of house with our customers, ultimately improving their experience at our restaurants. We also want our customers to enjoy a unique, original experience. As always, we will be looking forward to receiving their feedback.
"Sip and Stone is a high-volume, family-friendly unit, welcoming large numbers of guests in short amounts of time. The restaurant setup means the robots will easily be able to assist colleagues and contribute to improving the overall dining experience, making it the ideal trial candidate.
“The information we gain from this trial will help to highlight the potential for development and improvement of standards both here at Belfast and ultimately at other restaurants around the UK and beyond.”
A similar trial is ongoing fpr SSP in Germany and an additional trial is scheduled in the UK for later this year.
A robotic future
While they have been talked about for a number of years, robots in restaurants have only really become a phenomenon in mainstream venues this year. In March, Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG) said it was trialling the use of two service robots in one of its restaurants, with a view to expanding their use across its wider estate.
The KettyBot robots, designed and built by Pudu Robotics, were trialled at BRG’s Slim Chickens restaurant in Guildford.
Big Table Group, which owns restaurant brands Las Iguanas, Bella Italia and Café Rouge, is also trialling the use of robots at one of its venues. It has partnered with Pudu Robotics with a trail use of BellaBot robots at its Bella Italia in Center Parcs Whinfell Forest.
The newly-opened Din Tai Fung on London's Tottenham Court Road also makes use of robots front of house, as does its restaurant in Selfridges.