WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. — Diners arriving at the new Wind Japanese and Thai Restaurant are greeted by a smiling hostess before being seated, and then attended to by one of the wait staff.
But that's where the similarities between this and other restaurants locally ends.
After ordering menu items on a provided iPad, the food is brought to diners by a robot called a Bellabot.
The robot is guided by three on-board cameras as it makes its way from the kitchen to the dining area, as well as guidance devices installed in the ceiling to direct it to the proper table.
"It sees everything around it," said Shane Connolly, CEO of Wind Group, which operates three Wind Japanese and Thai restaurants in Southern Ontario. "Any kind of hazard comes around, or for instance if a little kid should suddenly run in front of it, it will immediately stop."
The restaurant at 7566 Transit Road in Williamsville is the company's first in the United States.
The robots can also be programmed to chat with customers and answer questions and tell jokes, much like Siri can on an iPhone. It will even sing "happy birthday" if you happen to be celebrating.
However, according to Connolly, robots could never take the place of their human counterparts entirely, nor would the company wish them to.
"They actually enhance the job because it allows the servers to spend more time talking to people. ... It's just an innovation that helps us get better at what we do," he said.
He also says people get a kick out of the robots, particularly children.
One job the robot does not do is clear the table, as the restaurant does not allow dirty dishes to be placed on the trays the robot uses to bring freshly prepared food.