The intelligent robot concept store, Original+ (pronounced, “Original Plus”), looks unlike any KFC you’ve ever seen. The interior is designed in a traditional Chinese garden style with bamboo, flowers, and jade accents. Customers enter through a big circular doorway. Most remarkable, however, are the restaurant’s workers – small, pear-shaped robots named Du Mi, who take orders and process payments.
Du Mi’s employers claim they’re robotic cashiers are the first example of an artificial intelligence system at the front end of a fast food restaurant. A California-based company, Momentum Machines, has applied AI technology to create burgers since 2010, but these gaudy machines have been relegated to the kitchen, not to interact with customers. Meanwhile, Du Mi are a customer’s first and only interaction with restaurant staff. As such, the bots are designed to be cordial and engaging, while ushering customers through their purchases.
The restaurant’s first commercial stars Lu Han, a young Chinese singer-actor, who’s popularity among millennials hints at KFC’s desire to attract youth and keep pace with emerging social and technological trends.
And the Colonel isn’t alone in its attempt to establish itself in the burgeoning industry of futuristic fast food. Last year, McDonald’s opened Create Your Taste in midtown New York City. The concept kiosk allows customers to create their own burgers exclusively via touch screen – though human waitstaff stand by to assist customers with placing their orders, according to Business Insider.
KFC’s Original+ may be fun and engaging, but the Yum Brand chain will also have to prove its concept’s economic value. Just last month, two Chinese restaurants “fired” their robot waiters after the machines proved to be poor replacements for human workers.