Madison Heights restaurant brings in robots amid worker shortage

Posted at 11:26 PM, Oct 12, 2021

MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WXYZ) — The worker shortage is continuing to impact businesses across metro Detroit, leading one restaurant owner in Madison Heights to bring in robots to get the job done.

It talks, walks, and brings food right to your table. It’s called "Bella" and it’s a robot waiter helping staff at Noodle Topia in Madison Heights keep up with a busy dining room.

“It was kinda creepy but really cool," said diner Emma Chis. "Just cool delivery for the whole table.”

While Bella delivers drinks and food, staff members can seat groups and take new orders. It uses sensors in the ceiling and even built-in cameras to move around and also has a partner to pick up dirty dishes.

“We just sat here in amazement watching it," said another diner David Henry. "It was cute.”

The restaurant's owner Li Zhai says he got the robots a few months ago because he was struggling to find workers.

"It’s very difficult. At the time, nobody wants to work," Zhai said. "I was looking for some alternative options."

Zhai says the robots save his waitstaff dozens of trips back and forth to tables, giving them more help during peak hours.

“The robot is honestly not going to replace human beings for sure, but the idea is to have strong support to free up some of the time for the waiter or waitress to serve people and to have more business when we have less people,” Zhai said.

Bella isn’t the only robot coming to restaurants in Metro Detroit, Kiwibot is set to launch soon in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood. It’s a mobile autonomous delivery service, traveling the sidewalks and working with restaurants like Bobcat Bonnies to make deliveries in a one-mile radius.

“Basically the idea is to increase the orders for the restaurants and lowering the fee to zero of delivery to the customers,” said Mateo Mayer with Kiwibot.

While there’s still only a handful of these robots around, it’s another option restaurants are turning to to increase business and help ease the stress of the employees coming to work.

“Yeah, I could definitely see this at more restaurants,” Chis said.

Noodle Topia is open 11:30 am- 9:00 pm 7 days a week.