Meals on wheels at this kopitiam

Stuff of the future: A robot serving food to customers at Nam Heong Kopitiam in Ipoh.

IPOH: Mechanical waitresses are taking the town by storm – people are flocking to the Nam Heong Kopitiam at Ipoh Soho here to experience the new fad.

There, customers will be served by robots which are programmed to bring food to their tables along a designated track.

The robots are even named after famous Asian celebrities such as Dilraba Dilmurat, Hannah Quinlivan, Michelle Reis, Fan Bingbing and Angelababy.

Said to be the first outlet here utilising this concept, its assistant general manager Jacklyn Lim said customers would still need to get the dish from the tray themselves.

“Its main function is to bring food to the respective tables.

“The robots will greet the customers before asking them to collect the food from the tray,” she told reporters during the robots’ first day of work.

Lim said once the task was completed, customers would need to touch a sensor on the robot’s arm for it to return to the waiting area.

She said the robots were programmed to speak in English and Cantonese.

They could say “Welcome”, “Your food is served, please enjoy”, “I’m in operation, please give orders” and “Excuse me”.

“They also have sensors so they do not bump into customers and will stop in its track if there are obstacles,” she added.

Lim said the robots were meant to improve service efficiency and not to replace the human staff.

“We have about 25 serving staff. They will still take orders from customers, serve them food and do cleaning work.

“With the robots, our aim is to minimise the waiting period for customers to have their food served from 15 minutes to about 10 minutes,” she said, adding that the robots run on rechargeable batteries and could last for about eight hours.

Lim said the robots were called “Lui Sun Pong” (Goddess Gang), a term used to describe a group of beautiful celebrities.

“We have eight robots here in Ipoh and two more at our outlet in Da Men Mall in Selangor,” she said, adding that they invested 30,000 yuan (about RM18,467) for the robots.

She said plans were in the pipeline to have more of them at other outlets in Kuala Lumpur and Genting Highlands.

“In this era of advanced technology, we hope to incorporate these elements into our services,” she said.

Human resource manager Charmaine Sai said that it would take some time for people to get used to these robots.

“I think the people need to accept that robots will be part of our lives.

“It’s a great way to use machines to assist in our work. It is more efficient,” said the 35-year-old.

College student Liew Voon Chung, 21, said he was surprised to see the robots and was receptive to the idea.

“It’s the first time I’m seeing such a trend. I think it’s a good and creative way to serve customers,” he said.

His friend Chong Sook Hua, also 21, said the robots were a little slow and awkward.

“I still prefer humans,” she said.

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