Technology is advancing quickly, and with the perennial problem of high manpower costs and labour shortages, it is no wonder that many restaurants and hotels in the city-state are tapping on smart robots to ease business pressures. At the same time, these humanoid-like robots make dining or staying in Singapore a whole lot more interesting and convenient by automating the whole process. Head to these spots to check out their robot assistants, and to get a taste of the future.
1. Crown Coffee
Your cup of joe from this coffee joint at CT Hub 2 is prepared and served completely by “Ella”, Singapore’s first fully automated robot barista. Developed by Crown Group’s smart retail arm, Crown Digital, Ella is the company’s response to manpower shortages and quality inconsistencies. Taking up just under 6sqm of space, Ella has six robotic arms and is able to make up to 200 cups of coffee an hour using high quality Buscaglione Coffee beans that are ground-to-order and freshly frothed milk. The whole set-up is contactless – Ella works behind a transparent OLED screen and customers use the Crown Coffee mobile app to order and pay for their drinks. The screen also works as an interactive interface that can act as an augmented reality photo booth or display advertising or games. A range of classic drinks are available, such as Americano, mocha, flat white and cappuccino.
The popular chain of hotpot restaurants launched several high-tech features for its Marina Square outlet in January 2020. Acting as a support for human wait staff, friendly robot servers carry hotpot ingredients on multi-tiered trays from the kitchen to tables, while its automated soup machine can customise soup flavours based on your preference, for instance its thickness and levels of saltiness, sweetness and sourness. The droids are also able to record your preference for a personalised experience on your next visit. This is Hai Di Lao’s first overseas branch to allow such personalisation. Thanks to the use of light and sound technology, the dining experience is also an immersive one, with lightscapes of cascading waterfalls, whimsical animals and forests accompanying your meal.
If you fancy a cup of joe that is extra thick or has extra espresso shots, or if you have very specific requests to your usual beverages, this café’s penchant for precision is just for you. Instead of baristas, robots prepare your order in the exact ratio you want, and quickly too – they are capable of making a latte in under one minute. The robots store your order for the future, and you can even skip the queue by placing your order on the Ratio app before you get to the store or order via the self-service kiosk. A wide range of coffee varieties is served here, from the usual mocha, flat white, latte and Nanyang coffee, to the more intriguing coconut cold brew latte. Want something stronger? The Bailey’s latte and pandan whisky latte is sure to hit the spot. As the sun sets, the robots switch to mixing up cocktails, doling out perfectly mixed negronis, old fashioneds and martinis. Launched in Centrepoint, a second outlet will soon open in Seletar Aerospace Park.
Located at the basement of Paragon Shopping Centre, Honeymill offers specialised honey products – with a twist. Its beverages are made with Sody, an automated robotic arm that grasps cups, collects the types of honey and other ingredients and mixes it to produce a consistently good honey-based drink. Take your pick from novel flavours such as chestnut honey, lychee honey and lavender honey, which you can jazz up with your desired toppings like wolfberry, honey pear crunch and grapefruit puree.
Dine at one of Koufu’s selected food courts and you might see some smart tray return robots leisurely meandering around the tables. The robots, which operate by sensors, stop when someone is standing in front of them, so you can quickly dispense your trays on the robot’s racks. Once the racks are full, the robot will move to the washing area for cleaners to empty them. You can see the droids making their rounds at places such as Koufu at Punggol Plaza and Toa Payoh Hub, and Happy Hawkers at 872C Tampines Street 86.
6. M Social
Ever ring the hotel front desk requesting for more amenities only to… keep waiting? Such annoyances are a thing of the past at this Robertson Quay hotel, which has a front-of-house robot “Aura” designed to attend specifically to guests’ requests. Aura is programmed to operate an elevator and can deliver things like bottled water and fresh towels right to your doorstep. You can interact with Aura by clicking through the options on its screen and it responses with a series of beeps or by flashing a message. The hotel also has a robot breakfast chef “Ausca”, who is programmed to cook different types of eggs with your preferred ingredients.
7. Hotel Jen by Shangri-La
Two robot butlers, Jeno and Jena, can be found at Hotel Jen Orchardgateway and Hotel Jen Tanglin Singapore respectively. Decked in “tuxedo uniforms” in hues of pink and turquoise, the robots help deliver requests such as amenities or room service meals to their guests. The robots can take the elevators and make phone calls to guestrooms. Similar to M Social, you can “talk” to the robot by touching its screen before sending it on its way.
8. Shin Minori
Located in the Katong neighbourhood, this Japanese restaurant is the first Japanese dining establishment to use service robots. The two friendly droid servers, Loco and Loca, are programmed to bring your orders right to the table after you’ve made your choices via an iPad. Simply send the robot on its way by clicking on its interface indicating that you’ve received your food. In an interview, Shin Minori owner Angeline Wong says, “Being an ala-carte buffet restaurant with over 200 dishes on our menu, servers often make countless trips from the kitchen to the diners’ table. Having the robots helps improve service quality and increase productivity.”
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.
This article was first published on 17 October 2020.