The newest server at Little Tokyo in Boutte has many gifts – she’s musically talented, naturally cheerful and a tireless work ethic.
Interactions with her bring a futuristic feel – Bella is a robot, after all.
The robot waiter joined the team about a month ago and has become something of an unofficial mascot for the restaurant, which opened in Boutte about two years ago. Patrons have enjoyed the friendly machine, which plays music on its way from table to table and even reacts to the touch of customers –when you touch its ears or forehead, the robot responds with different expressions and voices.
Bella’s face resembles that of a cat, and her expressions and overall personality have especially been a hit with children, said Little Tokyo Chef Mickey Negara.
“It entertains the kids – they really like it,” Negara said. “Having it here has helped a lot, especially when we’re short staffed.”
Bella is programmed to know where each table is in the restaurant. She ensures food, dishes, napkins and other items are delivered efficiently. Her voice calls the table number and its exact arrival to the destination. When it arrives, it prompts customers to remove their food by flashing the lights on the tray.
All of it serves to lighten the load for the restaurant’s employees – Bella is an addition, not a means for subtraction. The robot accompanies waitstaff to the table and together, they form an effective and more efficient team. Naturally, there are no sick days for Bella – she’s there rain or shine.
When the addition of Bella was suggested to the Little Tokyo team, they agreed to take a look at it. It wasn’t a slam dunk at first – there was a question of whether the utility would be worth the price.
“We thought it was pretty neat, but maybe too much money,” Negara said.
But a trial run was offered for Bella to join the staff for a couple of days.
“We tried it out and didn’t want to let it go,” Negara said with a smile. “Yeah, let’s keep it.”
It also served to add a bit of unique flavor to the restaurant’s new location at 13299 US Hwy. 90 after moving from its previous building on Hwy. 90.