The Rise of the Foodservice Robots

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What do the words Chowbotics, Caliburger, Connected Robotics, and Ekim mean to you? If you haven’t heard of these companies yet, you will very soon.

Chowbotics is the the startup behind Sally, a salad making robot. The company has recently raised $11 million, in addition to the $5 million Series A raised in March of last year.

According to an article in TechCrunch, the investment will be used to expand beyond salad and into bowls. Among others, Chowbotics is looking into, “grain bowls, breakfast bowls, poke bowls, açai bowls and yogurt bowls.”

Automation, and food robots in particular, is an area of growing interest to foodservice operators

After running into initial hiccups, where human employees found it difficult to keep up with the speed of the robot, Caliburger recently reinstated Flippy, the burger flipping robot. The installation of Flippy caused a surge in business that the chain hadn’t prepared for, but after additional training all appears to be well.

Meanwhile, Bear Robotics has developed Penny, a robot that buses tables and delivers food in restaurants. Vaguely resembling a tall bowling pin with a flat top, it uses self-driving technology to navigate through the restaurant, while avoiding people and other obstacles.

Bear Robotics co-founder and CEO John Ha spent six years as an engineer at Google before investing in a Korean restaurant. There he started to realize how inefficient and difficult foodservice could be and, in typical engineer fashion, attempted to solve the problem using AI and robotics.

Meanwhile, in the pizza market, Zume Pizza is employing robots too, in what the Verge calls, “the future of workplace automation.” It does the job of pressing dough up to five times faster than even the most seasoned pizza spinning pros and takes care of the boring, dangerous, and unpleasant tasks, like inserting pizza into a 600 degree oven.

Sony is also getting onboard, teaming up with Carnegie Mellon to build food robots.

Will the future be automated?

Currently, none of the players in this market are attempting to replace all human input. Instead, they are concentrating on replacing those kinds of jobs that are suffering from high turnover, like flipping burgers, or are unpleasant, like sticking your hand into a pizza oven.

Whatever the future holds, it will be interesting to see where technology will take us in the world of foodservice.

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