The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Inside the futuristic restaurant where a robot has replaced the bartender

A robotic bartender prepares drinks Wednesday in Prague before the Cyberdog wine bar's official opening. (David W Cerny/Reuters)
Placeholder while article actions load

With architecture dating to the Middle Ages, Prague is a city whose modern identity is still defined by its many layers of ancient history, much of which remains gloriously intact.

And, yet, it is here — among a city of baroque palaces, ornate Renaissance-era chapels and cobblestone streets — that one of the first flashes of the future has suddenly, randomly emerged.

It has been dubbed Cyberdog. Though the name conjures images of an Eastern European Internet Cafe frequented by backpackers, it belongs to a newly opened wine bar. Unlike other wine bars in the Czech capital, however, this one has a new twist: It is staffed by a robotic bartender who serves drinks ordered via a smartphone app, according to Reuters.

Convinced that robots will soon replace waitstaff all over the world, following a trend that has redefined the manufacturing world, the bar’s owner, Marcel Soural, told Reuters that he thinks his business is embracing an inevitable shift in how restaurants operate.

“I am deeply convinced that in some time, when you will be served in a restaurant by a real person, it will be a terribly expensive restaurant because it will be unique,” he said.

The Boston restaurant where robots have replaced the chefs

How does it work?

The wine bar, which opened Wednesday and also serves food prepared by humans, is situated inside a two-story steel structure that looks as if it belongs at the bottom of the ocean or in an Antarctic research compound.

Perched behind an austere-looking caged barricade on the bottom floor, the quick-moving, bright orange robot arm — its sound a mixture of an electric beard trimmer and a kid’s remote-controlled car — chooses from a list of wines cooling in a nearby box. Once orders have been placed, the robot can pour as many as four glasses simultaneously, Reuters reported.

The machine then places the glasses on a tray, which is delivered to nearby tables table using a mechanical system in the ceiling.

“When he has no order, he is bored and he shows that by making moves according to what he has in his programming,” Soural told Reuters, noting that the machine performs dances.

Want to get your packages delivered via robot? Now there’s an app for that.

Robots are becoming increasingly common in restaurants around the world as business owners look to lower costs, increase efficiency and capitalize on what remains a futuristic novelty, experts say.

Thus far, human workers continue to play a crucial role in restaurants staffed by robots. At a California fast-food restaurant this year, a burger-flipping robot named “Flippy” lasted only a day on the job before he was replaced by his human colleagues after quickly burning out. The robot, a specialized industrial six-axis robotic arm bolted to the kitchen floor, later returned to action and began pushing out 300 burgers per day, according to USA Today.

On the other side of the country, in Boston, a restaurant that replaced human chefs with seven automated cooking pots that simultaneously whip up meals in three minutes or less has been a success. Opened in May by a group of 20-something robotics engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Spyce recently announced $21 million in funding and plans to expand along the East Coast, according to Eater.