Futuristic Food Courts
The next time you walk into a kopitiam or food court, don’t be surprised when you’re greeted by an army of automated androids.
Singapore’s first 2 “productive” coffee shops have hit town — featuring tray-return robots, self-ordering kiosks and self-operating floor-cleaning machines.
And a robotic revamp is on the cards for another 3 food courts in Bukit Batok, Punggol and *gasp* Yishun.
Not Your Average Kopitiam
In a bid to offer patrons a unique dining experience alongside the added convenience of shorter waiting times for tables and food, 2 new food courts, Happy Hawkers in Tampines and FoodTastic in Choa Chu Kang, have introduced a host of technologically-driven measures to make themselves more atas.
The new Happy Hawkers outlet was opened last Saturday (May 20), with Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli gracing the event as a guest of honour.
In a Facebook post, the food & beverage company promised an “improved dining experience” and “an easier and seamless ordering experience”.
We think most patrons would be glad to see the end of long queues.
Mr Masagos tried his hand at the new self-ordering kiosks, where both orders and payments can be made:
And here’s the new friendly neighbourhood tray-return robot:
FoodTastic’s grand opening on Sunday (May 21), a day after Happy Hawkers launched, threw up a few more surprises.
See the video by Capital 95.8FM:
Just like Happy Hawkers, FoodTastic has its own self-order kiosks and tray-return system.
Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry & Culture and Community and Youth, was introduced to the automated tray return system that had different stations for Muslim and non-Muslim food.
FoodTastic boasts quirky new gadgets that Happy Hawkers doesn’t have, like this cutesy Elmo face floor-cleaning machine:
They also have a shredder. No, not that shredder from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, but this useful contraption that helps shred waste food into bits and pieces for easier disposal:
Boon Or Bane?
The novelty of fuss-free dining seems like an exciting prospect at first glance. However, several netizens have reacted with scepticism.
One netizen who visited FoodTastic claimed the place felt foreign as it didn’t have a “human touch” and that the waiting time in queues wasn’t exactly cut.
He also brought up a valid point that the non-tech savvy elderly may have trouble operating the self-help kiosks.
As mentioned by Chang Cheng managing director Ricky Kok, “FoodTastic cost $1 million more to build”, and manpower was cut by almost 50 per cent.
Similarly, Koufu chief operating officer David Yang revealed that the non-halal kitchen had cut its staff numbers from from around 16 to 18 workers to 10 staff due to the new technology, reported Today.
This just proved to some netizens that their points were valid — that the implementation of such technology could rob the low-wage workers of their rice bowls.
Meanwhile, others were predicting that the prices at such food courts would rise.
Though both operators said prices will be kept affordable, and Spring Singapore chief executive Poon Hong Yuen added that “productivity in the long term would (bring costs down)”.
We wouldn’t blame diners for being sceptical of that claim — why would operators lower their prices and decrease their profits for no reason?
Still, a handful of people expressed delight at this innovative scheme.
You can head down to the 2 new futuristic food courts to experience what it’s like to have almost everything done for you by robots.
Who knows? If the scheme proves to be successful, we might just see artificial intelligence taking over all our eateries in the future.
By then, humans may even have robots to feed them hand to mouth.