An unmanned noodle restaurant that promises hot bowls of noodles without staff assistance in less than one minute was this week’s hot business topic.
But within a few days of achieving notoriety, Ludou Mobile Noodle Restaurant suspended its operations.
The restaurant at Huaxin Center on Guilin Road, which normally opened at noon, was closed when reporters visited on October 27. The operator, Shanghai Ludou Catering Management, posted a notice on the machine.
The notice read, “Our trial period is over. This restaurant will be suspended from business for a few days until it obtains official approval from the Shanghai Marketplace Management Authority.”
During normal operation, it was common to see four to five office workers stop by and pay by scanning the machine’s QR code. Customers said there was a long line every day at noon. “The noodles cost less than 10 yuan and can be quickly prepared. It’s a good option for people like us who have no time to go out to lunch,” said Cai, a woman who worked in a nearby startup.
The “restaurant” is controlled entirely by machines. The noodle soup is preserved at -18 C, rapidly thawed, and filled with hot water through the box top. In addition to the Japanese pork bone ramen and sour soup beef noodle, there will be two more option after the official opening: Taiwan Sichuan braised beef noodles and pea and multi-sauce Chongqing noodles.
A spokesperson for the Shanghai Xuhui District Market Supervision Bureau said staff from the Market Supervision Office had inspected the restaurant and confirmed the validity of its business license and food operation permit. However, based on the existing permit, it is only allowed to sell pre-packaged food. On-site preparation is beyond the scope of its business license. The Shanghai Food and Drug Bureau said the “unmanned noodle restaurant” was suspected of operating outside of scope of its business license and was ordered to suspend service. It may resume after obtaining the correct permits.
All three restaurants established by Shanghai Ludou Catering in Shanghai have been suspended.