A Tustin-based Korean restaurant has taken dining into the future, "employing" a pair of robotic servers to deliver food to guests.
I Can Barbecue opened up just six months ago, but owner John Ozbek decided to take service a step farther mid-December, when he began utilizing Fatima and Elizabeth — robot servers who have quickly become his most reliable staff members.
"The robot doesn't get sick," Ozbek said. "They're always here. They never say I'm tired."
While you're left to do most of the cooking yourself at Korean barbecue, the robots take care of most of the other elements of service, dropping of food, silverware and sides to tables.
On top of not having to actually pay the two servers, he says they work faster and allow his human employees to focus more on their other duties.
Ozbek worked in finance for years, but was always interested in Korean culture, as his father served in the Korean War. He began his second career as a restauranteur in 2017, opening his latest project in Tustin six months ago.
He says that he first learned about the possibility of robot servers after seeing several posts on Instagram, specifically from Japan. After figuring out the logistics, he was able to bring Fatima and Elizabeth into the fold, a move that customers have met with full approval.
"I'm shocked and impressed," said Vivian Caldoza, a customer at the Korean BBQ joint. "I was like, 'Oh! We scanned the menu, ordered and the food is already here. It's faster.'"
Ozbek maintains that the robots aren't stealing jobs from people, but rather than they're helping out on nearly every front. Now, his employees working in the back of house have more time preparing everything to perfection.
"We are prepping everything," Ozbek said. "We are a fully human-oriented side over there."
The robots cost Ozbek a pretty penny, but he said that he's already making up for it, as Elizabeth and Fatima are marketing themselves by bringing novelty to their service.
"The future is robot. The future is technology. We just need to catch it," he said. "I'm sure in a year or so, people will see this one all over the place."
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