Plans for York’s first robot-run restaurant hang in the balance

Fresh plans for a restaurant run by robots – which the owners say could be the future of eating out during a pandemic – will be discussed by City of York Council.

The owners of Haizhonglao Hot Pot and BBQ Restaurant at 12 George Hudson Street want to open what they claim could be the country’s first automated contactless restaurant, with “smart robot” waiters bringing food to customers’ tables.

YorkMix broke the story last November.

But North Yorkshire Police have objected to plans to license the venue, saying it is in the red zone for licensed premises in the city centre.

A statement from the restaurant says it would be “a contactless restaurant run by robot waiters to reduce the human-to-human contact due to the virus transmission risk”.

It adds: “Due to Covid-19 epidemic, the catering industry is badly affected and [has] declined.

“Therefore we have come across an idea of a contactless restaurant that helps to reduce human-to-human contact due to the virus transmission risk.

“As the virus pandemic continues to rage, we have introduced a robot-run restaurant that helps the business to run smoother, safer eating and better in operation.

“City of York could [have] one of the country’s first automated restaurants.

“We want to be the first automated restaurant, we want to start and begin our first success in the catering industry in York.”

Man Wai Leung has applied for the licence – claiming the manager has more than 30 years of experience, all staff will be trained on noise management, proof of age will be required and full risk assessments carried out.

First scheme rejected

Another view

The council has already refused to license the restaurant once – after a meeting in November 2020. The fresh application suggests an earlier closing time and plans for CCTV throughout the building – but police say it does not go far enough to address their worries.

They say the applicant, Man Wai Leung, has had previous contact with police in his role as general manager of The Regency Restaurant at 16 Barbican Road. In 2017 six people working at The Regency were removed by immigration officers as they were found to be in breach of the Immigration Act 1971, a police statement says.

It continues: “North Yorkshire Police cannot support this application in the cumulative impact area, and for the exceptional reasons highlighted in respect of Mr Leung as the proposed designated premises supervisor and respectfully ask members to refuse the application.

“A red zone has also been identified in this area due to the high concentration of licensed premises, the impact of which have led to a high level of occurrences in relation to crime and disorder related issues.

“Prior to this new application being submitted North Yorkshire Police have not been consulted in respect of this application for a premises licence.

“The application varies slighting from the previous in that the hours for licensable activities have been reduced by one hour, to 11pm from midnight and appropriate CCTV conditions have been included.”

But they say the applicant fails to explain how the venue will not add to policing pressures in the area.

The licensing hearing takes place on Monday at 10am.