The basement level of Shanghai Tower — a modern marvel in its own right, located in the city's Lujiazui district — is now home to Pizza Hut’s new high-tech concept restaurant ph+. Working the host stand is a two-and-a-half foot tall, bow-tie’d ‘bot named Casper, Ad Age reports. Casper will greet you, give you a table number, and lead you to said table with a friendly “follow me” — the same way droids like Casper did a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
Robots-in-restaurants are a booming trend, especially over in the Eastern Hemisphere. Yum China Holdings, an offshoot of Kentucky-based Yum! Brands, is at the helm of China’s entire Pizza Hut, KFC, and Taco Bell market, and building ultra-modern stores run by robots seems to be the direction the company’s headed.
This summer, it launched a high-tech KFC staffed entirely by robots. Across the sea, select Pizza Huts in Japan will deploy a humanoid robot named Pepper who can not only take customers' orders, but also “use facial recognition systems to judge a customer’s mood and perhaps offer add-on products, trying to capitalize on how the customer is feeling.”
And while Casper doesn’t deliver food, nor does it take orders — there’s a giant iPad-like table for that — it being the face of the restaurant will surely attract many of the same novelty-chasing tourists flooding the gates at Shanghai’s tallest tower (and the world’s second-tallest tower) for their turn at the skyscraper’s observation deck.
Whether Casper's restaurant duties will expand beyond greeting and seating remains unknown, but China’s definitely seen some failed efforts in the restaurant robot order-taking/delivering department. KFC’s voice-activated robots once had trouble understanding humans, too.