Startups target S. Korea's restaurant & cafe industries with serving robots

By Park Sae-jin Posted : May 8, 2023, 13:49 Updated : May 8, 2023, 13:49

[Courtesy of VD Company]

SEOUL -- Various startups are targeting South Korea's restaurant industry with more than 800,000 restaurants, coffee shops, and bars with serving robots that can carry food from the kitchen to customers' tables. Restaurant owners can subscribe to a robot rental service for as little as about 300,000 won ($226.5) per month.
Serving robots are often witnessed at restaurants and cafes regardless of their sizes. Some shop owners find autonomous robots, capable of evading obstacles and reaching their destination safely, more efficient than full-time human workers who receive a minimum wage of about two million won. Robot rental service startups' subscription plans include regular maintenance and system updates of the robots.
Currently, there are some 8,000 serving robots in operation across the country. VD Company is the largest serving robot operator with more than three thousand active units as of the first quarter of 2023. Baemin, South Korea's largest food delivery service operator, also has some 1,300 serving robots deployed to restaurants. Baemin launched B-Robotics, a robotics subsidiary, in February 2023 to focus on the development of indoor and outdoor delivery robots.
According to VD Company, the top service robot operator seeks to increase the number of new robot deployments to up to 2,500 units this year, while releasing new types of robots that are ideal for delivering drinks and tea. To attract more new customers, B-Robotics released a subscription program for used serving robots that is about 30 percent cheaper than conventional rental services.
Data released by British market analyst group Brand Essence Market Research & Consulting showed that the global service robot market will grow at an annual average growth rate of 21.9 percent to reach $140.9 billion by 2027.
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