MONTREAL -- He’s not your typical server. To the tune of Pachelbel’s Canon in D, Johnny Boy busses platters of dumplings between the kitchen and customers’ tables at Harbin Dumpling.

The restaurant on Montreal’s Saint-Denis street has been embracing A.I. with their robot server. They purchased him in China to help their wait staff serve customers more quickly. 

“We started using it because it’s too far away from the kitchen to the table,” said Joyce Zhang, one of Harbin’s servers. “Sometimes the customer orders food and I have to go around and back, around and back. It’s tiring, so we started thinking how can we solve this problem.”

Johnny Boy was designed with multiple sensors and the restaurant had to install sensors on the ceiling at points throughout the dining room. The staff simply program the robot’s destination into a computer, and it rolls along to its destination. 

It can also speak, in both Mandarin and French. 

“When he comes to the table he'll say ‘Just wait a minute and the waitress will take the food for you,’ and when he's going to leave he'll say ‘Bon appetite, enjoy’”, said Zhang.

He’s mostly cheerful, unless you get in his way. Then he gets a little impatient. 

“He can say get out of my way, I’m going to be angry, I have to work now,” she said. 

Johnny Boy can even make an angry face. 

Zhang says the robot has become more than just a colleague. 

“It's my best friend now.”

She also doesn’t feel her job is at risk of disappearing to robots. Johnny Boy is helpful, but this robot isn’t capable of transferring food onto tables. 

While robot servers are all the rage in China, there are only a few in use around Canada and Zhang believes Johnny Boy is the only one of its kind in Montreal. 

Zhang says overall Harbin’s robot cuts down on labour costs, but with a price tag well over $10,000 it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing droids taking over the Montreal food scene anytime soon.