Meet the robotic cat serving diners in a Gatineau restaurant

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At Elie Maalouf’s brunch in Gatineau, Quebec, diners these days are treated with a smile and a friendly meow.

Maalouf added a cat-themed robot known as “BellaBot” to the staff at La Buena Déjeuner, as the restaurant on Boulevard St-Joseph struggles, like many other Canadian restaurants, to find and remember. workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We don’t have a name for it yet, but soon we will,” Maalouf recently told CBC Radio. Ottawa morning. “It’s not really a purchase yet. It’s only a trial period, although I think he passed the interview.”

Maalouf said he came up with the idea of ​​recruiting non-human aid in May, when the labor shortage became particularly severe.

Elie Maalouf, owner of Gatineau, Quebec, brunch venue La Buena Déjeuner, poses with a cat-themed robot that now delivers meals to restaurant patrons. (Hallie Cotnam / CBC)

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, his restaurant had 16 paid employees. By spring, they were down to eight, including members of Maalouf’s own family.

“I was [one] employees. My wife was [one] employees. My sister came to help us on the weekends, and my dad and my aunt worked in the kitchen, ”he said.

Since having only three permanent employees was “not much of a way to run a restaurant,” Maalouf began to consider the BellaBot, designed by Chinese company Pudu Robotics, as a temporary solution.

The robot can carry up to 12 hot, heavy dishes from the kitchen, Maalouf said, although his servers always accompany him to dinner tables.

It comes with big shiny eyes and pointy cat shaped ears. He also meows when you stroke him, something Maalouf said his clients seem to particularly like.

A cat-themed “BellaBot” is making its way into the kitchen at La Buena Déjeuner in Gatineau, Quebec. The brunch venue is considering purchasing the robot to deal with staff shortages. (Raphaël Tremblay / CBC)

Some limits

“My heart was pounding a little and I was really excited for the robot to come here,” said guest Simon Tesfay. “I hope this is the future.”

While the vast majority of La Buena Déjeuner customers are tickled by the thought of being served by a robotic cat, Maalouf said he understood that some might be uncomfortable with the idea that a technology does the work of a human being.

It will never replace an employee.– Elie Maalouf

The robot has limits – it can’t fill someone’s drinks, it can’t deliver meals to diners, it can’t replace missing tableware – but it’s ultimately a tool for getting through to the restoring a tough time, Maalouf said.

“I really want to make sure everyone understands that this will never replace an employee. It only helps us as restaurant employees. It helps us manage the workload throughout the day.” , did he declare.

“It will never replace good service from good workers.”

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