A robot helps out at Driftwood Restaurant, where it transports takeout orders from the kitchen to the front doors. (Photo submitted)

A robot helps out at Driftwood Restaurant, where it transports takeout orders from the kitchen to the front doors. (Photo submitted)

Robot a valued staff member at Nanaimo restaurant

‘Bella’ delivers food from the kitchen to the front doors at Driftwood Restaurant

A new Nanaimo restaurant has some reliable robotic help coming and going from its kitchen.

Bella the robot is a customer-pleaser at Driftwood Restaurant, a Chinese buffet that opened this past summer at Nanaimo North Town Centre.

“She’s a really popular star now and a very important member in my takeout team,” said Clair Zhang, restaurant owner. “She’s really helpful.”

Zhang said a businessman who sells the delivery robots dined at her other Nanaimo restaurant, Simonholt, and dropped off a flyer.

“I’d seen it on YouTube somewhere, but I hadn’t seen it locally,” Zhang said.

She thought the robot might be something she wanted for Driftwood, which at the time, hadn’t yet opened, so she tested out the BellaBot at Simonholt for a month. It met her expectations and is now ‘employed’ at Driftwood, where it transports takeout orders from the kitchen to the front door.

“It’s a big restaurant, so it’s a long distance from the front entrance to the kitchen,” Zhang said. “Our hosts can save a lot of time coming and going so they have enough time to greet people and say goodbye to people.”

Zhang said she knew the robot would be good for marketing, but said it would be boring if it didn’t contribute, too, so it was important to her that the robot be able to help in some way.

“Nobody feels scared that Bella can take the place of them. She’s a really good helper but she cannot do everything a human being can do like take payment, talk to the customer, that kind of thing. So staff do their job but Bella can help them,” Zhang said.

She said there have been a lot of “friendly moments” when customers have seen the robot for the first time or have been surprised by it.

“It’s a lot of fun for our customers,” Zhang said.

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