Softbank's humanoid Pepper robot is used around the world.

  • Robots are increasingly taking over retail spaces and restaurants.
  • Their role has become especially vital during the pandemic as businesses look for new ways to enforce social distancing and no-contact service.
  • We rounded up 20 retail and restaurant robots. It's up to you to decide: are they cute, creepy, or both?
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The robots were created by man. So far, they haven't evolved, rebelled, or formed a plan to kill all humans, but they're definitely more present than ever in daily life.

In the last few years, robots have entered our public spaces in a way only previously imagined in science-fiction books, movies, and TV. They've leapt from popular imagination into the aisles of warehouses and grocery stores, into restaurant kitchens and dining rooms.

Not only do robots play an important health and safety role during the pandemic - often testing for coronavirus and doing temperature scans - they're more necessary than ever before to allow businesses to reopen in a safe and socially distanced way.

Take a look at some of the Most Valuable Droids of retail below and decide for yourself: cute or creepy? Or both?


A restaurant in Hangzhou, China has a robot chef that looks like Ultraman, a Japanese anime character. This chef robot slices noodles in the kitchen.

Source: Getty


Flippy, a robot chef arm made by Miso Robotics, is used in stadiums and select restaurants. This fall, White Castle will start testing Flippy in one of its restaurants.



In Japan's Huis Ten Bosch amusement park, a robot named "Andrew" makes okonomiyaki at Hen-na Restaurant.

Source: World Economic Forum


As part of KFC's "fast food of the future" initiative in Russia, the chicken chain is testing a fully-automated fried chicken preparation system.

Source: The Takeout


Starship Technologies' tiny sidecar-on-wheels robots have been tested widely as a convenient (and now contactless) food and grocery last-mile delivery method. Starship robots have been tested by Postmates and Doordash.



Softbank's humanoid Pepper robot is being used around the world. In Germany, chain grocer Edeka introduced Pepper robots in its stores to help people social distance and stay safe during the pandemic.

Source: Retail Tech Innovation Hub


Walmart has staffed 1,000 of its stores with Bossa Nova robots, which stock shelves and help keep track of inventory. The six-foot robots contain 15 cameras that can scan aisles.



In Moscow, Russia, some Lenta supermarkets are staffed with Promobot robots, which roll around the stores and announce discounts and promotions. They also recognise regular customers and can do product demonstrations.

Source: Grocery Dive


In 2019, regional supermarket chain Giant Eagle started testing Tally robots at its stores. Tally robots, which are made by Simbe Robotics, scan shelves to keep track of stock.

Source: Supermarket News


Hundreds of Stop and Shop and Giant Foods stores are home to the googly-eyed robot Marty, who has become a customer favorite. Marty also played a key role in a murder suspect's alibi in January.

Read more: A high-profile murder case hinges on an alibi involving a googly-eyed grocery-store robot named Marty


There are many restaurants around the world that utilise waiter robots, including this one in Qingdao, China. "Tete" delivers food to guests and can speak over 200 words.

Source: Getty


This Chinese server robot made by Kewang Trade Corporation plunges deep into uncanny valley territory with its human-like visage. It can also carry more than 35 kilograms (just over 77 pounds).

Source: Getty


A robot waiter at a restaurant in Wuhan, China has expressive eyes on an LED screen.

Source: Getty


Chinese hotpot chain Haidilao employs non-humanoid robot servers that make facial expressions and speak to guests.



"Robot" restaurant in Chennai employs seven female-esque robot waiters. The robots glide around on magnetic strips to serve customers their food.

Source: Scroll.in


Meet Ruby the robot waitress, who serves customers at Drink and Spice Magics restaurant in Dubai.

Source: The National UAE


In Naulo restaurant in Kathmandu, Nepal's first robot waiter, Ginger, speaks both English and Nepali, and was built by 25 Nepali engineers.

Source: Dunya News


The Gran Caffé Rapallo in Liguria was the first restaurant in Italy to employ robots as waiters.

Source: Getty


In Kabul, Afghanistan, a Japanese robot named Timea that serves patrons of Times Fast Food has earned the nickname "Nazo," or "beautiful" in the Dari language.

Source: The National


The Pepper Parlor in Tokyo, Japan is staffed by Softbank's Pepper and NAO robots. Pepper robots, which are used around the world, serve patrons while NAO robots dance and entertain them.