London Tea Room Chain To Reopen With Robots As Waitstaff

A restaurant where robots serve tea and scones probably sounds like an unlikely sci-fi movie scene, but it’s soon to be a reality. The Tea Terrace is investing big on tech while it awaits the end of lockdowns in the U.K. All bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants closed on March 20 as part of nationwide measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. But even when businesses are free to welcome in customers again, Ehab Shouly, the managing director who started the Tea Terrace in 2010 with his wife Rowena, doesn’t think it will be the same as before.

He and his team conducted a survey that asked their customers what they feared the most about going back to restaurants. The results showed that most were apprehensive about interacting with waitstaff and sitting at tables that are too close together. The latter was simple to address: The Tea Terrace will space out its tables at all of its four locations—two in London and two in Surrey. The concern about coming into contact with employees, however, required a more complex solution.

Shouly and his company began to research ways that would make guests feel comfortable about returning to their tea rooms and also ensure the health and safety of both customers and staff. The outcome? When the Tea Terrace opens its doors again, there will be robotic waiters serving the food. “We’re redefining how restaurants would be post-coronavirus and how we will be able to operate within the new normal of social distancing and minimizing contact between staff and customers,” Shouly says.

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