From farming to supermarket self-checkouts, robots have long been creeping in and taking the jobs of their human counterparts – but is a robot waiter a step too far?
Right here in Greater Manchester, there’s a Chinese all-you-can-eat buffet where your food is brought to your table by a robot. Yes, really.
The Chinese Buffet, or TCB Unlimited Dining Experience, has two sites in the region – one in Bolton. another in Wigan – and both use robots known as ‘Bella Bots’ to run food and drinks to diner’s tables.
These four shelves mean that ‘Bella’ can serve multiple tables at once, and even ‘chat’ with diners thanks to AI programming.
Customers order all of their food from a bespoke app, then it’s brought to their table by the robot, which has shelves down its back and scoots confidently across the restaurant floor without bumping into anything around it.
You can order as much as you want for a fixed price, starting from £12.50 for lunch going up to £21.99 for a ‘Grand Buffet’ on Fridays and Saturdays.
What’s on offer to you depends on the restaurant and the sitting time, but even at lunchtime for the cheapest price, you’ll still have a choice of roughly four soups, 11 starters, 16 mains, 3 sides and 9 desserts to get stuck into.
The robots were first introduced to the restaurant during the Covid pandemic, when strict rules required hospitality businesses to operate as table service only to stop the spread of the virus, but have proven even more useful as staff shortages continue to plague the industry.
She ‘never tires’, does not get sick, or require time off. She has also helped owners weather the storm of staff shortages and recruitment problems, during a period in which hospitality has faced some unprecedented challenges.
And at a rough price of £14,500 a pop, ‘Bella Bot’ costs the owners of TCB much less than it would to employ a food runner or waiter for 40 hours a week on minimum wage.
Now that restrictions in England have been lifted, bosses have decided to keep her on as a valued member of the team – saying that she makes life easier for their human staff, too.
Paolo Hu, TCB managing director, told the Liverpool Echo earlier this month: “The hospitality industry is facing unprecedented challenges in recruiting staff at the moment, so anything we can do to make team members feel more valued and their jobs easier goes a long way towards keeping staff motivated and happy.
“Bella Bot is a great new addition to the team, making it possible for front of house staff to spend more time attending to the needs of our customers.
“Bella never tires, she just keeps on going, making the return journey between kitchen and tables, literally hundreds of times a day, so our people can spend more time helping our customers have a great time”.
Feature image – TCB
Manchester cafe Idle Hands mobbed by huge swarm of bees who took over outdoor tables
One of the Northern Quarter’s most popular cafes had an unusual issue on Saturday afternoon, when tens of thousands of bees paid a visit.
It seems the swarm of bees had got wind of Idle Hands’ legendary pies and took over one of the venue’s outdoor tables.
The cafe had to call in a local beekeeper after the busy insects rendered their outside space too risky for customers to use.
Incredible photos captured by local photographer Andrew Stuart and shared by the cafe show a jaw-dropping mass of the insects congregating beneath a table.
The cafe, on the corner of Dale Street and Tariff Street, was saved by the Manchester Honey Company, who humanely scooped them away to safety.
Idle Hands wrote on Instagram: “So, fun day at the shop today, with thousands of bees moving home and deciding to drop in on our shop and cluster under one of our tables (now forever to be known as the bee table) whilst on their journey.
“Massive thanks to @manchesterhoneycompany for coming and safely taking them away to a far more suitable home. And to @andrewstuart1 for capturing the event so well!”
They had previously posted on their stories: “Erm, anyone know what we do about this??? Swarm of thousands out of nowhere.”
Manchester Honey Company said: “This swarm landed @idlehandscoffee in Manchester and was collected by @manchesterhoneycompany. The bees were so friendly and calm and we were so well looked after by the friendly staff.
“The bees were collected from under a table and put in the hive. The queen was in the hive so the rest of the bees followed her in.”
The incident with Idle Hands is far from the first time that swarms of bees have caused disruption in the city centre.
Hit Christmas market stall opens permanently at Piccadilly Gardens
Crunch Korean Gansig has become a must-try foodie stall at the Manchester Christma Markets, now it’s pulled up at Picadilly Gardens permanently.
The hit Korean hot dog stall has wowed visitors over the past few years with its cheese, potato and meat-filled creations.
Deep-fried in a crispy waffle coating and then lightly rolled in sugar, these sausages on a stick come drizzled in sweet ketchup and mustard.
Incredibly moreish if we do say so ourselves, since first making their appearance at the 2021 Manchester Christmas Markets they’ve consistently been ranked one of the event’s best food traders.
Now, thanks to a new permanent stall popping up where it all began for the team, Manc foodies can enjoy their hot meaty and cheesy Korean goodies all year long.
Popular flavour choices include all-cheese, all-sausage and half-and-half versions, with a vegetarian-friendly cheese-filled version wrapped in a potato waffle coating, and halal-friendly options that are made using separate batter and fryers.
This really is a hot dog stand that caters to everyone. With owners having previously said they would work on a vegan hot dog once they got their own permanent stand, we don’t expect the plant-powered gang will be left waiting too much longer.
Sharing the news to Instagram, the Crunch Korean Gansig team wrote: “Hey guys, we’ve got exciting news to share! We are launching a new market stall in the Piccadilly garden street food market from tomorrow.
“After two years of successful Christmas trading, we are ready to take on a new challenge, and love to serve our hotdogs to you guys again!
“So come on down to the market and say hi, we love to see you there! See you soon!”
Fans of the Korean hot dog stall have responded to the news with enthusiasm, flooding into the comments to share their excitement.
One person wrote: “So excited we will have to go!!”
Another person said: “Nooooo stop!!! I’m so happy I could cry”