Automation is Here: With Robot Chefs

Bonji Foods Aficionado Smart Brief: Volume 49

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Keep an eye out, you may have a robot cooking your food sooner than you think!

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Hi all, welcome back to the Bonji Food Aficionado Smart Brief! Happy Tuesday and happy November! We hope the weekend treated you well and that you are ready for a new week full of new opportunities! We've seen automation slowly trickle into the restaurant industry throughout the years. Maybe it's the ordering process, or maybe it's the soda machines; regardless, automation has found its way into the industry. Now, as we look toward the future, are restaurants going to become fully automated operations? Of course, some humans may need to be involved, but robotics have gotten impressive, to say the least.

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What To Expect From Automated Restaurants Although this may seem like a far way out, automated restaurants are slowly being phased in. Yes, it is in the early stages; however, the technology has been implemented on small scales and continues to be tested. Specifically, the large chain focused on healthy salad bowls, Sweetgreen, is leading the charge toward automation. Just last year, Sweetgreen acquired the start-up restaurant Spyce. In hindsight, they weren't buying Spyce for their two locations, but for the technology that they developed. Spyce was a fully automated kitchen operation, allowing employees to focus on quality and customer service. This is what Sweetgreen's CEO says is what their focus is on moving forward, employees focusing on prep, quality, and service. Deemed “Infinity Kitchens," these robots aren't necessarily doing ALL of the work, but the cooking and finishing of the bowls is done via robotics. This is something that may frighten a lot of us, but Sweetgreen claims that this will only improve customer experience and create a more consistent meal. Nonetheless, we think it's a pretty amazing concept; you can find a video showcasing the technology at the bottom of this page. At this time, Sweetgreen plans to open two automated restaurants in 2023 and aims to implement these robotics into more of their locations as early as 2024 if they are as successful as expected. Sweetgreen isn't the only chain looking to automate the customer experience either. With ghost kitchens popping up all over, the concept has been taken a step further. Instead of simply hosting multiple restaurants in one building, companies like Inspire Brands (which owns Dunkin', Buffalo Wild Wings, and more) and KYLO (Toronto-based food group) are creating their own “digital food halls.” Although the cooking may not be left up to robots, the other pieces of the experience are all completed via technology. Whether you arrive and place an order in the food hall using a digital touch pad, or you are ordering online, there is very little human interaction. These food halls will be operated under one umbrella food group instead of a ghost kitchen's wide variety of restaurants that can rent out the kitchens. For instance, Inspire Brands could open a food hall containing the restaurants that they own like a Dunkin' or BWW. The idea is essentially under the same roof as ghost kitchens but is more centrally focused for the owners. In addition, they have opened the doors to local brands as well, adding to the ghost kitchen feel. Overall, automation hasn't slowed down and we'll be seeing more and more of it in restaurants throughout the next few years. Keep an eye out, you may have a robot cooking your food sooner than you think!


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