Innovative ramen chain creates contactless service system.

Japanese ramen chain Korakuen is always looking for ways to innovate. Earlier this year, they came up with not one, but two different types of chocolate ramen, and now they’re forging a new frontier not just in the type of food they serve, but how they serve it.

This month marks the debut of Korakuen’s Unit K-1. If you think that sounds like the name of a robot designed to protect humanity from alien invaders, you’re half right. It is indeed a robot, but the enemy it’s fighting against isn’t hostile extraterrestrials, but a ravenous hunger for tasty noodles.

▼ And also for fried rice and gyoza.

Unit K-1 is a contactless ramen delivery robot designed to carry Korakuen customers’ orders from the kitchen to their table. As restaurants across Japan remain open for eat-in dining, the system aims to minimize diners’ proximity to other people in order to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

After taking their seats, customers use a tablet to place their order, which is then relayed to the kitchen. After the staff cooks and plates their food, it’s loaded onto Unit K-1 and the robot is sent on its way, using sensors and AI to navigate the restaurant’s interior without bumping into people or objects between it and its destination.

Unit K-1 doesn’t just move, but talks too. Upon arrival it’ll instruct customers to take their food from the tray and then hold their hand above the sensor on the top of its “head,” which will then send the robot back to the kitchen to get started on its next delivery run.

▼ Korakuen also hopes Unit K-1 will be able to help alleviate the heavy workload of short-staffed restaurants.

The first Unit K-1 goes into service next Thursday at the Korakuen branch in Motomiya in Fukushima, the chain’s home prefecture. With Korakuen being the sort of company that really values people’s well-being, though, it won’t be surprising if we eventually see the hygienic robo waiters at its locations in Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan as well, and if we’re really lucky, maybe Korakuen will bring back its ramen croquettes so Unit K-1 can carry them too.

Restaurant information
Korakuen (Miyamoto branch) / 幸楽苑(宮本店)
Address: Fukushima-ken, Miyamoto-shi, Miyamotomanse 176-6
Open 8 a.m.-9 p.m.

Source: PR Times
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