Northwest Florida Roundup
BellaBots robot waiters are here to take your orders
The Robot Will Take Your Order Now
A Pensacola restaurant has found a futuristic way to overcome staffing shortages that continue to challenge the nation’s restaurants.
Eurasian Bistro’s solution? Robot waiters.
Owner Paul Nguyen says his BellaBots — 4-foot-high, black-and-white robots with feline facial features — are programmed to perform table-to-table food service, deliver drinks, interact with diners, display facial expressions and issue warnings, such as “be careful” when diners reach for a hot plate.
The robots not only allow for fewer human servers, but also help improve the quality of service and food for guests by quickly delivering orders to tables, says Nguyen.
“There are many times I go to a restaurant, and when it’s busy, sometimes dishes are out there ready and just sitting on the counter and the server didn’t get around to it fast enough,” says Nguyen. “So by the time they get to your table, the food is not as hot or as warm as it should be.”
Manufactured by China-based Pudu Robotics, BellaBots retail for about $10,000 each.
They are battery operated and capable of making 400 kitchen-to-table delivers a day on a single charge. The robot has four built-in food trays, an independent suspension that eliminates jostling of plates, and is programed with an AI voice system with broad human interaction capabilities.
- Project Titan, the $210-million maintenance, repair and overhaul facility expansion, reaches a milestone this month with the completion of the second of four planned 177,000-sq.-ft. hangars at Pensacola International Airport. The new hangar is leased by Singapore-based ST Engineering, which currently occupies a similar-sized hangar that was completed in 2018. ST Engineering uses the facilities to overhaul commercial jet airliners. After completion of the fourth hangar later this decade, Project Titan is expected to create a total of 1,325 jobs.
- A $28-million international processing facility is under construction at Tallahassee’s municipal airport. Aviation Director David Pollard says the project will open the door for international access for travelers and international trade. “We have some destinations that we certainly are very interested in,” says Pollard, who adds that Tallahassee International Airport’s economic impact in the next few years could reach $1 billion and create an estimated 1,600 jobs.
- Triumph Gulf Coast awarded Florida State University Panama City $7.6 million to build a Collegiate Laboratory High School. A laboratory high school is designed to test and develop new educational models, incubate new ideas and allow aspiring teachers to train in a live classroom environment. The grant will be funded over six years. The Collegiate Laboratory High School, expected to open as early as fall 2023, will be the eighth lab school in the state and the first of its kind in Bay County. Triumph Gulf Coast is the non-profit entity that oversees the money recovered from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
- The real estate company Resia, formerly AHS Residential, has chosen Bay County as the new home for its manufacturing operations. Resia specializes in developing, building and managing multifamily communities across the U.S. The company’s new Bay County operations will manufacture modules and components for apartments that will be shipped to construction sites. The company plans to invest $40 million in a 200,000-sq.-ft. plant and hire some 200 employees, says Becca Hardin, president of the Bay Economic Development Alliance.
- Arkansas-based Central Moloney is moving into an existing manufacturing facility at Bay County’s Venture Crossings Business Park. The company designs and manufactures electrical distribution transformers and transformer component parts. Central Moloney CEO Chris Hart expects to employ 200 to 250 over the next year at an average wage of more than $50,000.
- Triumph Gulf Coast awarded Pensacola- Escambia Promotion and Development Commission $2.5 million to support the expansion of Pegasus Laboratories, a pharmaceutical research, development and manufacturing company headquartered in Pensacola. The grant enables the commission to acquire and lease an existing facility in the Ellyson Industrial Park where Pegasus has its manufacturing headquarters. Pegasus manufactures and distributes its PRN Pharmacal brand to the veterinary market.
- Gulf Coast State College and the GCSC Foundation have received $2.5 million from noted Panama City philanthropist Julie Hilton. The gift to GCSC is the largest ever from a single donor. The money will be used to establish the Hilton Hospitality Management & Tourism Program.
- Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Ascension Sacred Heart in Pensacola recently opened the Panda Cares Center of Hope to aid children and families battling pediatric cancer. The center was made possible by a grant from Panda Express, the California- based restaurant company, which donated $1.25 million.