New Restaurant Concept Has Robots on Staff
The basement level of Shanghai Tower, the city’s tallest building, is now home to Pizza Hut’s new high-tech concept restaurant called ph+.
Working the host stand is a two-and-a-half foot tall, bow-tie’d ‘bot named Casper. He greets customers, leads them to their table, and rolls across the floor and beeping like R2-D2. Although Casper doesn’t deliver food, nor does it take orders, the restaurant has a table that works like a giant iPad, where customers can touch the screen to customize pizzas and other dishes.
It’s one of the first efforts to come from Yum China Holdings, now the China licensee for KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, which is soon to re-enter China. Yum was a pioneer in China, bringing KFC to the mainland in 1987 and Pizza Hut in 1990. However, its sales in recent years have been hurt by food safety scandals affecting KFC and by competition from local brands, which are quicker to react to trends.
Restaurants staffed by robots are popping up elsewhere in Asia, including at Pizza Hut in other markets; in Shanghai, a KFC opened in May with robots taking orders. More generally, China’s KFC stores have been revamped to look more stylish.
KFC and Pizza Hut have worked hard to customize their brands to China’s digital and e-commerce landscape. On November 11, Alibaba’s big annual sales day, a Pokemon Go-like augmented reality mobile game led people into locations such as KFC. People can also buy vouchers on an Alibaba shopping platform to get discounted chicken legs at KFC or better deals on Pizza Hut.