PATRONS of Japanese restaurants would be familiar with small plates of sushi swishing past on conveyor belts. They pick up what they want and let the rest pass them by. If they want a dish that is not on the belt, they can place an order on the tablet at their table or hail a waiter.
Restaurants have found ways to innovate and automate their operations over the past few years to cope with the difficulty in getting consistent labour and to improve their customer service.
And the folks over at Modu System (M) Sdn Bhd believe they have a product in hand that will help eateries serve up better efficiencies.
Modu invested some RM100,000 to develop its self-guided carrier, known as express delivery cars, in 2015, which executive director Lynda Chan says can help restaurants cut their manpower needs by half.
The self-guided carrier is a robot that moves along an aluminium track to deliver food orders from the kitchen directly to a customer’s table. When it is not in use, the robot will automatically dock at its charging station.
According to product manager Raminderjit Singh, this system is commonly used in Japan.
“However, they only have straight tracks. Our tracks can be customised and curved according to the needs of the restaurant. Also, we have the advantage of a lower cost and we have done a lot of research and development work to make sure that our tracks have a clean look. There is no additional wiring or loose parts that is visible below the tracks,” he says.
Raminderjit notes that Modu has over 20 years of experience producing conveyor products and the express delivery cars are an extension of its efforts to help businesses automate their operations.
The carriers are controlled by a system that is designed on the Android platform and can be accessed by mobile devices, which enables Modu to provide after-sales support remotely.
The basic cost of installing a track with one carrier is about RM40,000.
Modu’s express delivery system is currently installed in over 50 restaurants in Malaysia, the US, Japan, Singapore and the UK.
“People are familiar with this type of system in sushi restaurants but they can be used for any type of restaurants. In the UK, we installed it for a pizza place and in Singapore, we did an installation for a dimsum restaurant,” says Chan.
She adds that customers at the restaurants have also responded positively to the robot carriers.
“A lot of them, especially the kids, will try to take photos with the robot,” she says.
Chan hopes to grow this segment of Modu in the coming months as she is confident that the robot carriers will be beneficial for small businesses.
“The challenge for small businesses is getting consistent and reliable workers. This can help solve their problems. Our customers have been quite happy with this product,” says Chan.
“This will take the operations work of bringing food to the table out of the hands of the workers so that they can focus more on customer service,” adds Raminderjit.