PHOTOS: I ate in Haidilao’s new S$888 VIP room that has an exclusive light show – here’s what it was like

Honestly, you’d probably have a better time sitting with everyone else.
Business Insider/Rachel Chia

With Chinese New Year almost upon us, half of Singapore is probably making plans to visit a hotpot restaurant to get their fix in the coming weeks.

Among the hottest meal spots now is Sichuan chain Haidilao, which just opened a high-tech outlet in Marina Square last month promising cool features like robot waiters and artificial intelligence.

Get ready for a new technology experience restaurant set to debut in Singapore – Haidilao's Marina Square branch is…

Posted by Haidilao Singapore on Monday, 30 December 2019

Business Insider visited the restaurant on Thursday (Jan 16) for a media lunch, and got to see first hand just what it was like to eat in the outlet’s S$888 private room.

Spoiler: it wasn’t as impressive as we’d hoped.

Here’s how it went:


This is the new and futuristic Marina Square outlet of popular hotpot chain Haidilao, whose restaurants always command insane queues at dinnertime.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

One of the key features of this outlet is the introduction of serving robots, which are staples in its Beijing and New York branches.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

True to its promise of a tech-pimped outlet, the first thing I saw when visiting the outlet on a Thursday afternoon was a robot driving snack trays up and down the waiting area.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

The outlet had two entrances – one inside the mall, and the other outside it.

Tech features for the outside entrance included a Huawei-powered, AR car-racing game – quite a change from the usual paper Sudoku puzzles and mazes.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

There was also a bar backed by large screens playing videos of rolling Sichuan peppercorns…

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

…and a kid’s playroom with a colouring activity and wall-to-wall graphics reminiscent of the Future World exhibit.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

I later found out that the outlet’s projections are done by Panasonic, which also supplies the projections for Future World.

Sadly, the system was down that day.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

On to the spacious main area, which featured a neutral colour scheme.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

The outlet had semi-circled booth seats…

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

… a standalone sauce bar…

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

… and light projections along the walls.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

This included video “windows” playing an underwater scene.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

The wide walkways allowed serving robots to navigate back and forth.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

The robots – which had sensors that helped them avoid collisions -ferried dishes from the kitchen to specific tables, where waiters unloaded them. Then they drove themselves back.

The process was mesmerising to watch.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

The outlet also boasted two private rooms located in a quiet corner.

Unlike the light projections in the main dining area, which are open to all, those in the private rooms get their own exclusive show.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

Here’s what the two private rooms looked like combined. Each room housed one table, which can sit nine.

Those who book a room must spend a minimum of S$888.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

Before the meal, the rooms were in relative darkness, with a starry sky projected on the walls and the Haidilao logo on the tables.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

Housed above each table were 5 projectors responsible for the light show.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

Before the show, a waitress came around offering snacks, aprons and hot towels.

Unfortunately, she didn’t offer any of the other items the brand regularly hands out, such as a welcome fruit plate, hair ties, plastic storage bags for phones, spectacle cleaners, a shawl, or manicure cards.

Servers also didn’t provide cloth bins for bags, or offer to cover them with a sheet to protect them from absorbing food scents.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

Once everyone was seated, the doors were closed and the room was plunged into darkness.

The five-minute pre-meal show was stunning. It wouldn’t have been out of place in Future World itself, except for the liberal starring of meat and veggies.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

Once the show ended, wall-to-wall projections continued for the entire meal. My favourite one was a soothing tableau of plants in a waterfall.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

The rest, however, were plain quizzical (or whimsical, depending on your point of view), such as this one starring a crescent moon amid enoki mushrooms, chilli seahorses, and onion fish.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

Don’t get me wrong – I’d never be able to afford eating in this room on my own.

But after observing the layout and dividing the space by half, I was taken aback at just how small each room was.

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Facebook/Haidilao

The waitresses were kind enough to mix one round of Haidilao’s special sauces for everyone at the table, but you’re on your own for subsequent rounds, as well as any fruit and dessert you might want during the meal.

This means you have to leave the room, spoiling the experience of private dining.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

Nine people per table was definitely cramped. We were knocking elbows and knees, and there wasn’t much space for dishes, though I could see some families liking such a cosy arrangement.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

Throughout the meal, I also questioned if a single hotpot was adequate for nine, as it was tough to scoop and cook ingredients without knocking something over.

Staff also had to keep topping up the soup, as it ran out often.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

Those who book a room get dedicated staff members to serve them. But given that this was a tech-focused outlet, I was disappointed at the total lack of robots.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

This Haidilao outlet claims to offer diners an immersive, futuristic experience. But while the exclusive video was definitely memorable, it was pretty much just that: a video.

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Business Insider/Rachel Chia

Yes, there were other areas in the outlet pimped out with tech: the robots, the VR game, soup personalisation (not practical for big groups) and an intelligent kitchen management system.

But the only facet of this tech upgrade that private diners got to experience was the video projection.

To their credit, staff still delivered on the brand’s impeccable service standards, and the five-minute exclusive video definitely came with bragging rights, if the number of Instagram Stories taken during the show was anything to go by.

But the tiny, cramped table and small hotpot were big deal breakers, given the S$100 per person minimum spend. Plus, the brand’s regular service is just as good as the one for the VIP room, meaning you’re really just paying to sit with your own group.

So if privacy isn’t that important, you’d probably have a better time outside with everyone else.


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