Robots for hire: this time, as restaurant workers

At one new restaurant in China, robots handle all requests.

In previous posts, we described how robots are being employed for a variety of new tasks, being put to work as healthcare workers , delivery drones , teachers , and even as game-show contestants . Now, according to a new report, robots are being put to use for on-site customer service and grunt work in the restaurant industry.

The AP reports that at Dalu Robot restaurant, which opened this month in Jinan, China, a full staff of robots provides a range of services, from taking orders to schmoozing with customers:

"More than a dozen robots operate in the restaurant as entertainers, servers, greeters and receptionists. Each robot has a motion sensor that tells it to stop when someone is in its path so customers can reach for dishes they want."

The restaurant's owner, Zhang Yongpei, reportedly wants a total of 30 robots to staff the facility. Each robot purportedly costs about $6,000, which would be about three or four months' wages for restaurant help in North America.

But what will a robot do if your food comes out undercooked or too spicy? What if it's the wrong order altogether? Are robots intuitive enough to handle all the exceptions and special situations that arise?

It's going to be some time. Remember how the "automat" -- with coin-operated dispensers with freshly made food -- was the wave of the future at one time? When they first came out in the early part of the 20th century, they heralded an era of food delivered by machines. But automats never took off, because people still wanted their food served by other people.

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