In the latest example that South Florida’s new population boom has made living here less affordable than ever, a robo-butler now serves Champagne and caviar at one clubby Fort Lauderdale restaurant.
Meet Caviar Accoutrements Mobile (aka CAM), a new “caviar robot” that YOLO Restaurant deployed this week downtown. Sporting a jaunty top hat and bow tie, CAM roves the dining room serving customers two splits of Moët & Chandon Champagne on ice, fried chicken and truffle honey, blinis with manchego foam, and tins of expensive caviar.
The cost? A modest $150. Want a full-sized bottle? Add $70 to $660.
As is customary with such luxury, CAM only accepts tips in bars of gold, or by pledging unwavering fealty to the future robo-empire. He (yes, we checked, CAM is a “he”) insists on your loyalty before artificial intelligence finally achieves singularity.
We kid, of course.
Definitely not kidding is Tim Petrillo, cofounder of YOLO’s restaurant group, The Restaurant People (S3, Casablanca Cafe, Tarpon River Brewing). Petrillo, for one, welcomes the robot revolution — especially if he can seize on what he calls a “growing caviar trend” in South Florida.
While restaurant robots are nothing new in South Florida, caviar — once steeped in stuffy luxury — has lately enjoyed a mini-revival on TikTok and in Miami, where high-end fish roe has become a du jour snack paired with lower-end deviled eggs, crispy rice and french fries. (See restaurant menus of Stubborn Seed and Queen in Miami Beach, Giselle and Klaw in Miami, and Rusty Pelican in Key Biscayne.)
So, Petrillo wondered, why not Fort Lauderdale?
“Caviar’s traditionally been very upmarket, not very fun,” he says. “But as we talked to people who weren’t true aficionados, we realized that people were just intimidated by it. Miami is more metropolitan, but that should translate to Fort Lauderdale, shouldn’t it? So we wanted to give people a new introduction.”
Enter the robots. The culinary combination of robots and caviar, he argues, equals fun.
Still, call us skeptical. The last time robots chased patrons around a nightclub was when Arnold Schwarzenegger hunted for Sarah Connor in “The Terminator.” Petrillo, however, says we should consider CAM as benign, like Rosey the Jetsons’ wisecracking robot housekeeper, Optimus Prime, or the robot butler from “Rocky IV.”
As butlers go, CAM is as reliable as Alfred Pennyworth. Er, right?
“Right,” Petrillo says. “I mean, it delivers your food and goes back to the kitchen. It won’t talk back to you. The funniest reactions we get are when guests are walking down the aisle and CAM is coming at them.”
OK, but what if customers weren’t amused here but, rather, terrified? Is anything more frightening than a robot in a top hat chasing you around a restaurant with steak tartare?
Really, the opposite has been true, Petrillo says with a laugh.
“Customers love taking the hat off and wearing it,” Petrillo says. “And I hate to think what’s coming next: People are going to get a little drunk and jump on it and try to ride it.”
Recent test-runs of the caviar robot over Christmas and New Year’s weekends reveal precisely how useful CAM is at world domination.
“During practice runs, it fell over because it was top-heavy,” Petrillo admits. “It tried to transition over the door jam and — faceplant. It’s a three-tiered robot, so we learned to put the champagne ice buckets on the bottom instead of the top.”
But he is undeniably fun.