Pizza Hut just hired its first robot employee, but it won’t be replacing humans just yet – here’s what we know

Business Insider/ Jonathan Loh

A new employee has just landed a job at Pizza Hut Singapore with the ambition to revolutionise fast food customer service.

But this is not just any run-of-the-mill eager beaver employee.

Meet Pizza Hut’s new humanoid robot assistant and poster boy for future digitalisation of food and beverage (F&B) services.

Unveiled at a media preview on Wednesday (Mar 14) at Pizza Hut Singapore’s SAFRA Punggol outlet, Humanoid Robot is a key player in a pilot project between Mastercard and technology company Softbank Robotics to enhance voice-based commerce experiences.

Business Insider had a chance to witness what it has in store for the F&B industry.

Business Insider/ Jonathan Loh

An iconic brainchild of Softbank Robotics, Humanoid Robot is recognised by many and is no stranger to “employment”.

Over 2,000 of its brethren are serving in Japan’s retail, banking, hospitality and research industries among many others at present, said Kan Kiyota, marketing director at SoftBank Robotics Corp.

Its latest foray with Pizza Hut Singapore is touted as the world’s first introduction of robot helpers in the fast food industry.

Humanoid Robot can help diners with menu choices, offer personalised recommendations and enable customers to make fast and secure digital payments using Masterpass – Mastercard’s digital wallet.

All they have to do is greet it and pair their Masterpass account with the Pizza Hut Singapore mobile app to enjoy a smooth checkout experience.

“The mission is to create a more human-like simple and engaging platform for customers,” said Tobias Puehse, vice president of Labs at Mastercard Asia Pacific.

The burning question is: does it actually work?

After a ceremonial reveal in the flesh – well, metal to be exact – Humanoid Robot took part in a live demonstration with Puehse, showing how a typical customer could order a takeaway just by talking to it.

Business Insider/ Jonathan Loh

It was a surreal experience observing the entire process as Puehse ordered his meal almost effortlessly in under three minutes.

Surprisingly, Humanoid Robot scored points for customer service too as it consistently commended Puehse for his “great choice” of food items.

Somebody is apparently vying for an Employee of the Month award.

Kan Kiyota and Tobias Puehse pose for photographs with Humanoid Robot after successfully completing an order for takeaway.
Business Insider/ Jonathan Loh

However, other people who wanted to have their turn with Humanoid Robot had a hilariously awkward time trying to enunciate their words so that it could decipher their orders.

One person struggled to get it to recognise the word “pizza” for an entire minute.

Although Humanoid Robot does its job faithfully and professionally, its present job scope only allows for order taking and payment services because of technical limitations.

Both Kiyota and Puehse noted that certain aspects of the F&B industry such as authentic customer service and mobility are where humans still reign supreme over robots.

Thus, you won’t be seeing them waiting tables anytime soon.

For those looking to enjoy a rare dining experience being served by a robot assistant, now is the time to grab that opportunity as the pilot project will conclude on Sunday (Mar 18).

Correction: The previous version of this article stated the robot’s name as Pepper. According to Softbank Robotics, its actual name is Humanoid Robot.