3 December 2021

'Bella' the robotic waiter in Goulburn cafe is a taste of the future

| Max O'Driscoll
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Bella the robot at Greengrocer on Clifford in Goulburn

Customers at Greengrocer on Clifford, in Goulburn, have recently been served by ‘Bella’ the robot. Photo: Janice Bennett.

The Greengrocer on Clifford in Goulburn has a new member of its waitstaff.

Introducing ‘Bella’.

She’s only in her first couple of weeks at the cafe, and while she may not be blessed with all the communication skills of a traditional waitress, she more than makes up for it with charm and bravado.

‘Bella’ the robot has been a very popular addition with her colleagues and customers at the Greengrocer on Clifford, and she is beginning to come to life in her role.

Greengrocer on Clifford owner Con Toparis says bringing in Bella has been his way of supporting staff after a difficult period, and also managing changing consumer patterns.

“We’d seen it in the media and we reached out to the company [that manufactures the robot] and thought it would be a good idea coming out of lockdown with staff very tired, and inconsistency in the pattern of when customers come in,” says Con.

“Rostering at the moment is challenging. [‘Bella’ is] not to replace our staff, but to assist our staff in more fluctuating times when it’s busy.

“We now have an extra set of hands.”

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‘Bella’ was given a map of the store, and after processing that map she knows where each table is and can travel to and from the kitchen without fault.

She also comes with sensors so she’s aware of any objects in front of her that may be out of place.

Unlike most two-handed individuals, ‘Bella’ can carry up to eight plates on her four shelves.

“If I’ve got to take four plates to table three and I’ve only got two hands, ‘Bella’ may follow me, or she might head off to table four and I might head off to table two,” says Con.

“The footprint here is large so it can be fatiguing as a worker. ‘Bella’ the robot seems to cover the distance, and being a machine – an intelligent one at that – she’s not experiencing fatigue.”

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In comments responding to an online post made by a customer regarding the robot, opinion was divided with some people speaking about how much their children would enjoy being served by a robot, while others were concerned Bella would steal jobs off locals.

However, Con puts a line through the latter view.

“We currently have lots of positions available at our store so it’s not possible that ‘Bella’ would be replacing any of them,” he says. “There is currently more work than there is staff.

“Bella is not the whole answer, but she’s certainly a help. She’s wonderful.”

The Greengrocer on Clifford will be adopting a wait-and-see approach when it comes to ‘Bella’ the robot’s long-term implementation, and will be relying on customer feedback in the coming weeks to inform their decision.

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Apparently the Fair Work Commission will also be relieved to hear of this abomination

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