“Earth person, hello – Welcome to the Robot Restaurant.”

No, this is not a quote from a science-fiction novel – this is the greeting patrons receive when they walk into the Robot Restaurant, located in the city of Harbin, in China.

The futuristic restaurant has gained international fame, and its popularity has been growing steadily ever since it opened in June 2012. The restaurant is run by a team of 20 robots, which cook meals, wait on tables, serve food, and entertain diners. When you enter the restaurant, an “usher” robot greets you and shows you to your seat. Each robot is able to display 10 different facial expressions, and has a limited vocabulary of some basic welcoming sentences.

After diners select one of the 30 different menu options, the robo-chefs in the kitchen get to work and start preparing the dishes. For the time being, the robots are limited to cooking simple dishes such as pasta.Once a dish is prepared, a robo-server, which runs along rails in the floor, carries it from the kitchen and serves it to the diner. And if that is not impressive enough – how about this – the robots will even sing to you while you eat!

Hasheng Liu, the project’s chief engineer, said about $800,000 was invested in the robots alone. Each robot unit carries a price tag of $30,000 to $50,000, and they can work continuously for five hours on a single two-hour charge. “Staff in the computer room can manage the whole robot team,” Mr. Liu says. “After the busy routine during the day, each robot will get a ‘meal,’ which is electricity.”

The robots range from 4.3 feet to 5.25 feet in height. Those that do the seating and entertaining run on tracks in the floor, while a set of robot arms delivers meals by lifting your food off of a conveyor belt that is suspended above the table.

The Alpha Machine

As of now, the only Robot Restaurant is located in China, but a robotics company in the United States has plans to launch its own robot-run restaurant. The San Francisco-based robotics startup, Momentum Machines, has developed a new type of robotic assembly line called the “alpha machine” that can produce six burgers per minute – that’s 360 hamburgers every hour! Besides preparing and cooking the burgers, the robot can also prepare special orders – and can add and slice extra toppings. It can even bag the burgers for take-out orders. The alpha machine has been designed to replace all hamburger cooks within a restaurant or fast food establishment. The savings will allow business owners to use better quality ingredients and create a much tastier and healthier product.

Representatives of Momentum Machines claim that the alpha burger is superior to the traditional fast food hamburger due to higher-quality ingredients. After an order is placed, the meat is ground and stamped by the machine. The customer can also place orders for different types of meat as well as a variety of sizes. The company seeks to offer a larger variety of foods to their diners, and is considering adding chicken and fish to the menu. Momentum Machines is also planning to launch the first “smart restaurant” where all the cooking is done by robots.

Stay tuned – can the first Glatt Kosher Robot Restaurant be far behind?