Customers shouldn’t feel too surprised to find themselves bowing to a robot next time they pick up a food order at Bleu Sushi. After all, he bowed first. Owner Hendra Yong installed the robot at his Washington Square West sushi restaurant a few days ago in an effort to follow safety protocols during the coronavirus pandemic while also having a little fun.
Stop by Bleu Sushi to pick up a takeout order of soft shell crab tempura and spicy tuna rolls and the robot, named Bleu Bot, grabs the bag of food, rotates to bring it over to a table next to the restaurant’s big, open front window, and sets it down before gracefully bowing to the customer in a wordless “thank you.” Yong or one of his employees initially hands the bag to Bleu Bot, but they’re able to follow social distancing guidelines and stay six feet away from customers.
“We wanted to keep serving customers, in a safe way. So we came up with this idea. I can see people’s surprise when they come because no one else is doing this,” says Yong, who’s originally from Indonesia but landed in Philly several years ago. His sushi restaurant turned eight on May 1.
“When the robot bows, the customer bows,” he adds with a laugh. “It’s kind of funny to watch.”
Yong is clearly getting a kick out of the robot, which he ordered from Japan for this purpose. It’s decorated in LED lights that change colors and, in addition to the bowing, can do a clunky little dance and bang a small gong. Yong says he’s still playing around with it and figuring out what else he can program it to do. He plans to give it a voice later — customers may soon be greeted by a warm hello from Bleu Bot.