Ari Korean Barbecue, a popular destination for sizzling bulgogi and spicy pork with locations in Plano and Carrollton, is currently piloting the use of futuristic, food-running robots called Pudu.
According to Ari owner Eugene Park, the restaurant is currently halfway through a two-week trial of the robots, which are designed by a Chinese company and have been used by a wide range of companies in a variety of capacities, from serving food at restaurants to assisting medical professionals at hospitals in South Korea and China during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here’s how it works: after assembling a diner’s order in the kitchen, an Ari staffer loads the dishes onto the Pudu, inputs the party’s table number and the robot delivers the order right to the table. Diners can then grab their meats, veggies, and banchan off the robot’s shelves, and commence cooking a Korean barbecue feast. Since landing at Ari, the “intelligent delivery” robots have been a big hit among diners, but they’re not without flaws.
Scope out a video clip of the robot in action below:
“It’s a great idea in theory, but our restaurant does a lot of volume and there is a lot of foot traffic,” Park tells Eater. “There are many obstacles getting in the way of the Pudu, and it has a difficult time navigating through our restaurant, which can cause the robot to malfunction.” The Pudu robots also aren’t able to navigate through certain parts of Ari’s space, thanks to people shuffling throughout the restaurant and structural beams that prevent them from moving around smoothly.
Another issue is that, unlike a human server, the Pudu can’t offer tips on how to perfectly sear a slice of brisket on the barbecue grill. “We pride ourselves on delivering excellent service, and part of that formula includes cooking the meat for our customers,” Park says. “Once the robot arrives, either the customer or a server must take the food off of the Pudu, properly place the items on the dining table, and the server can then begin the cooking process.”
Automated food delivery isn’t exactly new — think revolving sushi bars with touch-screen ordering and the old-fashioned vending machine — but Pudu robots are growing in popularity. According to the company, more than 2,000 restaurants across the globe have started using Pudu robots to deliver food.
Right now, Park isn’t sure whether or not his restaurant will continue to use Pudu robots at Ari, even amid an unprecedented (human) staffing shortage in the restaurant industry. “We’re happy to see our customer enjoying it’s presence in the restaurant, and it has definitely gained a lot of unexpected attention on social media,” Park says. “But we’re not sure if Ari is the best fit for Pudu’s design and function.
For folks who are seriously interested in a robotic dining experience, Pudu robots will be in use at Ari Korean Barbecue through April 28.