The idea of a robot chef serving you food may sound like something out of a futuristic movie, but you may be surprised the next time you’re looking for a bite to eat. Automation now allows for food robots to prepare meals remotely and serve up delicious dishes to customers on the go and in restaurants.
While the traditional food vending machine has been a mainstay in America since the late 1800s, modern food robot technology features the ability to offer more than just bags of chips and cans of soda. In fact, companies like Chowbotics and Wilkinson Baking Company have produced robot chef machinery that cooks and prepares salads and breads, respectively. These machines allow custom orders from customers through a self-serve kiosk, and items are made and delivered in minutes.
Cooking Robot Technology And Automation In Restaurants
Vending machines and self-serve kiosks aren’t the only places where food robotics are being employed. Restaurants, and fast-food restaurants in particular, are currently in the process of implementing machines from companies like Miso Robotics to handle a variety of kitchen and cooking tasks. In the case of Miso Robotics, the company has produced a robot chef called Flippy that can take care of manning grill operations, deep frying stations and more.
Chef robotics have become popular in recent years due to the availability of technology that was once considered science fiction, but another component in the development and implementation of chef robotics has been the cost savings that these machines offer. In the United States, there has been a large movement advocating for raising the minimum wage, a wage that many fast-food workers have traditionally received when starting out. In order for fast-food restaurants to raise wages while also keeping costs low for customers, some chains have been experimenting with replacing staff with automation.
The initial cost to install automation in the kitchen may be relatively high, but machines don’t need to take time off, they can operate under most conditions and they can work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Additionally, they tend to make fewer mistakes and can’t get injured on the job, meaning restaurants can save money on liability insurance, food waste, accounting errors and workers’ compensation insurance costs.
The trade-off is that there are fewer humans in the restaurant, and some studies have shown that this concept is off-putting to customers. Whether or not the concept of a robotic restaurant will take off or not remains to be seen, but it is a concept that many restaurant chain executives feel is worth investigating further.
Food delivery robots are also a concept that is catching on around the country. The University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) has recently begun delivering meals on campus using Starship robots. These machines were designed by co-founders of Skype, and they can autonomously navigate small areas like college campuses and office complexes to deliver hot and cold food items from a kitchen right to your door.
Is Now The Time To Invest In A Coffee Robot?
People are also looking at food robot technology as an investment. Many robotic companies that design and manufacture automated food preparation machinery offer franchise opportunities to individual investors and groups. Most of these deals involve the franchisee providing investment capital in exchange for a certain number of units to be placed where the franchisee chooses. There are often stipulations regarding placement, but the manufacturer will usually offer guidance based on location scouting and consumer research.
In terms of return on investment (ROI), revenue ultimately depends on placement, traffic and marketing. Additionally, the upkeep of chef robotics plays a large part in profitability since downtime and repairs can eat into profits quickly. As a result, franchisees are encouraged to negotiate with manufacturers to ensure that maintenance and repairs can be handled timely and at an affordable cost. If possible, the robotic machinery supplier should take responsibility for routine maintenance and repairs that are the result of normal wear and tear.
There are a number of options when it comes to investing in food robotics, but most successful entrepreneurs tend to stick with proven concepts like coffee preparation robots. Coffee is universally enjoyed by people from all walks of life, and coffee robots can be placed in almost any location and receive patronage.
Novelty concepts seem to fare better in places where large crowds gather for special events or while on vacation or special trips. Selling something like specialty bread or confections prepared by a robot may not appeal to everyday people as a regular purchase, but it is a concept that could gain more traction when such a robot is placed at a theme park or vacation spot.