CALGARY -- A new Calgary restaurant that specializes in traditional Chinese cuisine is throwing a grand opening with a huge technological twist this weekend.

That's because a robot greets customers when they arrive at the new Clay Pot Rice restaurant in Calgary. After they order, a second robot brings food to hungry guests.

“It’s a very cool concept,” said manager Amy Cen. ”I think people want to come see this. It’s very new and different, especially in the midst of a pandemic - like, a robot serving food is very appealing right?”

Owner Alex Guo used to operate a seafood restaurant at the same location on Macleod Trail South, but specializing in seafood on the prairies became too expensive. So Guo imported the robots from China before the pandemic in an attempt to reduce staffing costs.

“The manufacturer told me that the robot not only delivers food,” said Guo. “They can also take the order from the customer and also have a conversation with the customer.”

Clay Pot

Traditional cooking

Guo’s new restaurant prepares food in clay pots. It’s a traditional way of cooking in south China and other parts of Asia. It’s even popular with street vendors in that part of the world.

“Right now I focus on the kitchen,” said Guo. “I don’t have time to figure out how to use it (the robot) but even in the future I’m thinking that the robot can’t replace the people.”

At Clay Pot Rice, dishes are layered starting with crispy rice at the bottom and host a variety of toppings tailored to a Canadian palate.

“I guess it’s kind of easy to lose your culture when you move to a different country,” said Cen. ”So (we) definitely want to introduce it to our younger generation, like people around my age, because honestly I didn’t know a lot about it before I started working here.”

This is the first time Cen has helped open a restaurant and has taken part in tasting the new menu and hiring staff. She’s still getting used to technology helping out.

“I’m a person who likes to do things on my own,” said Cen. “So every time I’m about to go do something, I’m like wait, I can just get the robot to do it! I always forget we have him.”

The restaurant hosted its first customers Friday and the grand opening continues through the weekend.

Learn more about it here.