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'May I recommend the WD-40?' -- Robots serve Korean BBQ at new restaurant in Montclair

by Jesus Ambrosio | Off-Ramp®

One of eight robots servers at the new Montclair Gen Korean BBQ House. Jesus Ambrosio/ KPCC

“It’s almost like you are getting your own personal robot to your table. The intent is to be leading edge in technology and improve the guest experience.” -- Gen Korean VP Michael Yates

Korean barbecue is a hands-on experience. The server takes your order, and minutes later your food is brought to your table where you cook it on the grill.

With robots bringing your the food to the table, servers can more easily assist you grill your food.
With robots bringing your the food to the table, servers can more easily assist you grill your food. Jesus Ambrosio/ KPCC

And so it is at most Gen Korean BBQ Houses in Southern California. Hands-on. Except the hands at one of its new locations -- in Montclair -- belong to robots.

The Montclair Gen BBQ House had a soft opening last week, with new robotic technology. Gen Korean VP Michael Yates gave us a demonstration at this location, where eight robots service 36 of the 97 tables.

Dock station for all eight robots at the Montclair Gen Korean BBQ
Dock station for all eight robots at the Montclair Gen Korean BBQ Jesus Ambrosio/ KPCC

Here is how it works: A human server takes your order on a tablet. The message is sent to the back of the restaurant, where the robots are docked. A human chef adds the order to the robot tray, then pushes a button on a tablet, sending the food-laden robot to your table, on tracks in the floor.

It sounds like a long process, but within a couple minutes – sometimes it's even less than that– you unload the food from the tray, and you're ready to start grilling.  The robots stay at designated tables approximately 40 seconds, enough time to grab the food ... and take a selfie or two.

Michael Yates, Vice President of Operations for Gen Restaurant Management.
Michael Yates, Vice President of Operations for Gen Restaurant Management. Jesus Ambrosio/ KPCC

“We also have a restaurant under construction currently in Fremont, California that will embrace the same robotic system,” Yates says. Montclair "is the first location [with robots], but I wouldn’t consider it a test because we are up and running. There was a lot of extensive planning. We are one of the first that is using robotics in casual dining.”

Gen BBQ offers fixed-price buffet style dining, with everything you’d expect from Korean barbecue, like marinated sweet and savory beef to pork loin and ox intestine.

Marinated and grilled ox intestine might have an odd texture, but it sure taste delicious.
Marinated and grilled ox intestine might have an odd texture, but it sure taste delicious. Jesus Ambrosio/ KPCC

Yates says the robots are meant to simplify the buffet experience and keep the food flowing as fast as possible. The robot tray can hold up to eight plates. Because there is a limited number of robot serviced tables, they are first come, first-served. Even if their table is not directly served by one of the robots, patrons will see the robots zooming throughout the restaurant.

Even if the table is not directly served by one of the robots they will zoom during the dining experience throughout the restaurant.
Even if the table is not directly served by one of the robots they will zoom during the dining experience throughout the restaurant. Jesus Ambrosio/ KPCC

 

The Montclair Gen Korean BBQ House grand opening is this Saturday.

To hear the robots in action, make sure to click the audio link above.

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