Most of us wouldn’t expect our first interaction with a robot to be at a Korean fried chicken restaurant. But then, that’s how the robots will eventually win: by surprising us while we eat.
Since May 26, “Kitty,” the robot, has been picking up plates from the counter and delivering them to customers inside bb.q Chicken at 2495 S. Havana St., which is the first of four planned subway locations. from Denver for South Korea. chain based on fast-casual.
The second location, at 9234 Park Meadows Drive in Lone Tree, opened Saturday; a third, at 1360 Grant St. in Denver, opens next weekend. The last store will be in Littleton.
All four will serve the same menu — mostly wings and boneless “wings” with a variety of sauces, plus sides and beer — and will appeal to a host of K-pop crossovers, as well as families and office workers during the day and young adults who want to go out at night.
The other three locations probably won’t have robots — at least not for a while — but for franchise owner Jay Park, using a robot made a lot of sense.
“She’s our hardest worker,” he laughs. “Actually, the bot’s intention is to help our servers, but it also got a lot of attention from customers. That’s really cool.”
Park designed the restaurant’s interior with the robot — which uses a lidar sensor like those in autonomous vehicles to move, stop, and start — in mind. The floors are polished concrete to keep Kitty stable, while the cubicles are arranged to allow her to move around while returning to the food window and her charging station where she can recharge at the end of her the day. At lunchtime, the restaurant only needs two employees in front of the house because Kitty is able to deliver much of the food.
“Having a robot isn’t easy, but we’re very comfortable using it,” Park added. “We use it every day from morning to night. It works really well. »
Built by a Chinese company called Pudu Robotics, Kitty cost $13,000, Park said. Similar delivery robots have been used in a handful of other restaurants in the United States, such as Ari Korean Barbecue in Texas, but are more widely used in China and Korea.
Korean fried chicken, which can be spicy or sweet depending on the sauces, has become hugely popular in Denver in recent years as national chains like bb.q Chicken and Bonchon, also based in South Korea, have moved in. In fact, Bonchon, which has about 115 locations in the United States, opened its third location in Colorado, at 3970 Buchtel Blvd., in June.
Other recent Korean fried chicken openings include WingWok in Centennial and Mono Mono’s fourth location in Belmar in Lakewood. Korean fried chicken chains Angry Chicken and Cupbop also have locations in Aurora, as well as several local stores.
“KFC no longer stands for Kentucky Fried Chicken. It stands for Korean Fried Chicken,” Grant Street franchise owner Mike Lee joked.
Bb.q chicken has hundreds of locations in South Korea and often appears on TV shows and other media – something that has crossed the United States now that K-pop culture and Korean TV shows like “Squid Game” have become so popular here with young adults, Lee said.
That’s why he has multiple TVs in his location programmed with K-pop music videos and phone charging stations at each table. The four bb.q locations also serve beer from Launch Pad Brewing in Aurora to help connect them to the local craft brewing scene.
“There are a lot of bars and clubs nearby, and I want this to be where people hang out before they go,” said Lee, who grew up in Colorado and worked as a general manager at Smashburger for nine years before joining bb .q Poulet.
Lee would also like to have a robot in his store at some point, but he says the layout may not be ideal and the technology is expensive anyway.
But more than that, it is thrilled to provide a place near the city center for fried chicken and beer, a concept and combination so popular in Korea that has its own word, “chimaek”.
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