Rising labor costs, labor shortages and concerns over quality have motivated both technology companies and food entrepreneurs to get serious about robotics in food service. As automation quickly moves into the restaurant industry, robots are improving quality and production in the kitchen and helping with service at the front of the house. The following are among the latest innovations:[1]

  • A technology research center in Germany demonstrated the BratWurst Bot, which took orders, cooked and served more than 200 guests at a party last summer.
  • Momentum Machines, a Silicon Valley start-up company, is offering a fully automated fast-food restaurant system that can cook and prepare 400 burgers per hour.
  • Spyce Kitchen, created by MIT students, has developed a robotic system for mixing ingredients and serving complex meals.
  • Domino’s Pizza is testing pizza delivery robots in Europe and New Zealand.[2]
  • Yelp Eat24 plans to test autonomous food-delivery robots in San Francisco neighborhoods. The mobile food cargo units use technology similar to self-driving cars to navigate sidewalks.[3]

In the kitchen, robots are flipping burgers, creating pizzas, chopping vegetables, reaching into hot ovens and moving heavy supplies. They can produce food entrees faster and with greater consistency, enabling better quality meals and higher throughput of guests. These tasks are the first level of robotic innovation in food service. The next challenge is for robots to perform complex tasks and unstructured processes for handling random objects such as fruits and vegetables that vary in size and weight.

While tech companies tinker with functionality and robotic dexterity, the cost of restaurant robots remains relatively high, ranging from $20,000 to $75,000.[4] However, costs tend to decrease quickly as technology gains wide acceptance. Restaurant robots are expected to follow this trend, making them affordable and within reach of nearly any restaurant owner in the next 5 to 10 years.

Many are concerned that robots will replace low-wage restaurant workers: Several studies note that up to 50% of jobs could be automated in the next 20 years.[5] Restaurant owners are concerned as well and many are focused on providing their workers with ongoing education and skills training.

By using robots to perform mundane work, chefs and kitchen workers will have more time to undertake complex tasks such as menu planning and experimentation that require creativity and reasoning.

[1] “Are Robots Really Destined to Take Over Restaurant Kitchens?” by Matthew Sedacca, Eater.com, Aug. 29, 2016. Available at: https://www.eater.com/2016/8/29/12660074/robot-restaurant-kitchen-labor

[2] “Machines for hire,” by Mark Hamstra, Restaurant Hospitality, May 4, 2017. Available at: http://www.restaurant-hospitality.com/technology/machines-hire

[3] “Machines for hire,” by Mark Hamstra, Restaurant Hospitality, May 4, 2017. Available at: http://www.restaurant-hospitality.com/technology/machines-hire

[4] “Are Robots Really Destined to Take Over Restaurant Kitchens?” by Matthew Sedacca, Eater.com, Aug. 29, 2016. Available at: https://www.eater.com/2016/8/29/12660074/robot-restaurant-kitchen-labor

[5] “Here’s what it’ll be like to eat at restaurants of the future,” by Chris Weller, Business Insider, Aug. 31, 2016. Available at: http://www.businessinsider.com/future-restaurants-robot-automation-2016-8

This news is provided as a service to you by Marlin Business Services Corp., a nationwide leader in commercial lending solutions for the U.S. small business sector. Marlin’s equipment financing and loan programs are available directly and through third-party vendor programs, including manufacturers, distributors, independent dealers and brokers, to deliver financing and working capital that help build your success.