Food & Drink

Meet the Robot Lending a Helping Hand at Chilango’s in Fells Point

Chilanguito, as he’s named, cheerily greets diners as he leads them to their table.
Chilanguito can sing "Happy Birthday" in English and Spanish. —Photography by Justin Tsucalas

One of the hosts at Chilango’s Tequila Bar and Mexican Grill in Fells Point looks, well, a little stiff.

Chilanguito, as he’s named, stands just 41 inches tall and weighs 75 pounds. He has no arms, legs, or for that matter, any flesh or bone. Even so, he cheerily greets diners as he leads them to their table. “Welcome to Chilango’s,” he says. “Please follow me.” Chilanguito is a Servi, a robot that its creator, California-based Bear Robotics, hopes will revolutionize the food service industry.

Chilango’s owner, Carlos Cruz, is a true believer. He began using the Servi in January not because he wants to replace human workers, but because he can’t hire enough of them.

“I’m old-school,” Cruz says. “I never thought I was going to see something like this. But I’m impressed by what he can do.”

When customers arrive, they are still met by a human. The host uses the Servi’s touch screen to enter a table number and places the menus on its tray. From there, the robot leads diners to their table. When it arrives at the table, it instructs the customers, “Please take your menus and have a seat.”

Servi is, in part, the brainchild of John Ha, Bear’s co-founder and CEO, who worked for Google and owned a Korean restaurant. Today, nearly 10,000 Servis are deployed in food service businesses around the globe. They’re also designed to run drinks from the bar or food from the kitchen and transport dirty dishes.

“We’re not trying to replace people—we keep the servers on the floor,” says Aaron Mayer, Bear’s director of sales. “Because the servers have an extra set of hands, they can take more tables and make more tips.”

It’s also a novelty for the pint-sized patrons. “Kids go crazy when they see him,” Cruz says. “We were all stressed out, and when he came here it was a lot of fun.”