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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 August 2018

Ruby the robot waitress serves up a treat in Dubai 

She may resemble a character from a quirky 1980s Sci-Fi movie, but something rather special is on the menu at a new restaurant in Bur Dubai.

Ruby the robotic waitress is wowing hungry customers at Drink and Spice Magics by rushing out their orders with the minimum of fuss.

The glamorous employee can find your table and serve up your favourite curry, all in an instant.

And whilst she can't quite flutter her eyelids at diners, she does sing happy birthday and loves telling customers to 'enjoy your meal'.

“I want everything I do in life to be extraordinary and Ruby is no exception,” said Arif Mohammad, managing director of 4am Group, which opened the new restaurant.

“Many eateries have great decor and great food — so it is a very competitive market.

“When I was in India in 2016 and visited a restaurant which had a robot working in the kitchen, it gave me an idea.

"I thought why not use the same technology front of house? People are very excited by her.”

Customers have been wowed by Ruby's singing and love her sari. Pawan Singh / The National
Customers have been wowed by Ruby's singing and love her sari. Pawan Singh / The National

At Dh150,000, Mr Mohammad, a former software engineer from India, admits Ruby doesn’t come cheap. But with more than 11,500 orders in the restaurant’s first two weeks of business, the high-tech waitress could prove a very shrewd investment.

Not only can she weave her way through the restaurant to diners' tables, she never asks for a pay rise or takes any days off.

“Robots will be part of the future and it won’t be long before we all have a regular interaction with them in some form,” Mr Mohammad said.

“Ruby's absolutely beautiful and wears traditional Indian saris. She's five-foot tall, has a lovely singing voice and never complains. She's the perfect employee.”

Arif Mohammad, Managing Director of 4AM Group and owner of Ruby. Pawan Singh / The National
Arif Mohammad, Managing Director of 4AM Group and owner of Ruby. Pawan Singh / The National

Ruby gets to work after customers place an order from an iPad on their table which is sent straight to the restaurant's kitchen.

Once cooked, chefs place the meal onto her serving tray which she carries to their table. Human waiters then serve the food to customers.

So far, there have been no hitches and as long as Ruby has a clear path around the restaurant — she's guided by a series of magnetic strips on the floor — everything runs pretty smoothly.

She can sing happy birthday to diners and even play their favourite pop song whilst delivering their meal.

Mr Mohammad, who lives in Jumeirah Beach Residence, now has plans to expand his restaurant empire to 100 outlets elsewhere in the UAE, as well as Saudi Arabia, India and the UK.

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But on the first day of opening, he was alarmed to find a police car and two officers waiting for him outside his restaurant.

Worried he may have breached some kind of regulation involving the use of robots at work, he feared the worst.

But all the policeman wanted to do though was meet Ruby for themselves and book a table.

The restaurant, situated near the BurJuman metro station, also employs 37 conventional staff and 10 delivery motorbike riders. House dishes include chicken or mutton dim biryani, chicken tikka, stuffed potatoes and tandoori pomfret, a kind of curried fish.

Ruby awaits her next customer at Drink and Spice Magics restaurant. Pawan Singh / The National 
Ruby awaits her next customer at Drink and Spice Magics restaurant. Pawan Singh / The National 

“Ruby is the most popular member of staff and people are eating here just to meet her,” Mr Mohammad said.

“They're even asking us if she's working before they make a booking — and asking for a table being served by her.

"Ruby needs a metre turning circle so we had to design the restaurant around her. We opened on July 4 and despite not doing any marketing we've been booked up since. She's attracted so much attention.”

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