Putting the fun into Japanese family restaurants.

Just the other day, our reporter Seiji Nakazawa purchased a toy at Jonathan, a family restaurant operated by Skylark. While adults don’t usually purchase toys at family restaurants for themselves, this was quite the exception, as the toy was a set of blocks that allowed you build your very own miniature cat robot waiter.

▼ Seiji’s miniature waiter.

These cat robot waiters, known as Bellabots, have been serving meals to customers at a number of Skylark restaurants, but in his excitement at purchasing the robot in toy form, Seiji almost forgot to pay closer attention to the actual robot in the store.

Luckily for him, the staff member who sold him the toy had a hunch that he might be interested in the real thing, and so she led him over to the Bellabot, who was sitting quietly by the toys.

▼ Bellabot is such a hard worker it even advertises its own toy while serving customers.

While diners know to take their meals from the side of the Bellabot when it arrives at their table, a lot of customers might not know about a secret function — the robot likes to have its ears toucched!

Image: PR Times

The staff member demonstrated this function for Seiji, gently stroking an ear like you would a normal cat, and the touch of her hand immediately made the display come to life with a cute expression.

The cat didn’t just express its emotions with a facial expression — it talked too! While it was happy at first, by the time Seiji put a hand to it, the cat must’ve felt like it had been touched too much, as its expression changed to a frown.

Even with a scowl, the cat looked cute, and its fickleness gave it an authenticity that surprised Seiji. Curious to find out more about the robot, Seiji contacted the public relations office of Skylark, and after asking the why the Bellabot is equipped with such an interactive feature, they told him it helps with communication, so that customers can feel more comfortable when interacting with the robot.

With dozens of different facial expressions and hundreds of conversational phrases to choose from, the Bellabot can be customised to fit in with different environments. At Skylark’s Jonathan, Syabu-yo, Bamiyan and Gusto restaurants, where the robots operate, some of the phrases you’ll hear are: “Meow — excuse me!“, “How are you, Master?“, “Take your hands off me — meow” and “Your hands are so warm“.

▼ Seiji’s video below shows the cat robot saying it’s been touched too much.

Oh well, at least the cat was able to verbally tell Seiji to stop petting it — if it were a real cat Seiji probably would’ve walked away with scratches! So next time you stop by one of the Skylark restaurants listed above to try your luck at meeting a Bellabot, don’t forget to try your luck at touching their ears. Hopefully you’ll get better results than Seiji!

Featured image: PR Times
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