How Robots and AI are Making an Entrée Into the Restaurant Industry

Published Dec-16-19

Robots, drones and artificial intelligence are serving up changes in the restaurant industry.

Various, United States

The Story:

How Robots and AI are Making an Entrée Into the Restaurant Industry They may not have the creativity of Marco Pierre White, the originality of Heston Blumenthal or the cuss words and flair of Gordon Ramsay, but robots are making tracks in the restaurant industry.

Many restaurants have already employed automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning. For example, chatbots to guide customers through menus, apps that recommend dishes to you based on your data and purchasing history and KFC in China that's using facing recognition to pay. But the new wave of automation in the food industry is going even further.

Burger Flipping Robots

A little more than ten years ago, robot chefs and waiters were pure science fiction, but today they are a reality in several locations. From android waiters to burger-flipping robots are now performing a variety of functions.

In March 2019, Caliburger in Pasadena started using Flippy, a cloud-connected mechanical arm with a 3D thermal scanner for eyes. It can grab and flip burger patties or fry 80 baskets of food an hour as well as monitor that food and clean up after itself.

San Francisco restaurant Creator has a robot which handles every step of the burger-making process from grinding beef to toasting buns and dispensing condiments. And it uses artificial intelligence to ensure everything is cooked perfectly. "There are 11 thermal sensors just watching everything from the ambient temperature to the temperature of the cooking surfaces and adjusting every single time," said Alex Vardakostas, CEO and Co-founder, Creator. "We don't cook any burger the same."

There are several factors driving interest and investment in restaurant robot technologies. Principally, they are reducing costs by employing fewer people, creating greater efficiencies and improving the customer experience. Caliburger expects that Flippy will increase the quality and consistency of its products, improve food safety and enable its employees to spend more time with customers.

In Boston, Massachusetts, Spyce lays claim to being the world's first restaurant with a robotic kitchen that cooks complex meals. Customers select from the menu of fast-casual bowled meals, and the robots go to work, portioning out and dispensing the ingredients into cooking woks that are heated using induction. All meals are cooked to order in three minutes or less.

Robot Deliveries

Bear Robotics has developed a self-guiding robot called Penny, a runner and busser that can take food from a restaurant's kitchen and deliver it to a programmed table in the dining room. Penny also brings diners their cutlery and the bill.

Companies are also using robots to improve delivery. Kiwi Campus provides food deliveries in California college campuses like UC Berkeley and UCLA using largely autonomous robots called Kiwibots. Customers order via the Kiwi app and then wait for the bots to deliver. They use binocular computer vision to navigate, but humans can take control if they require help in busy areas.

Meanwhile, Dominos is also experimenting with robot delivery using autonomous delivery vehicles to get freshly baked pizzas to consumers' front doors.

The Age of Robot Chefs and Waiters

How soon will robots become a common fixture in restaurants? That remains to be seen, but at the moment a lot of time and money is being invested in changing the dining out experience forever.

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