Food and beverage processing has been achieved by heavy duty machinery controlled by ‘robots’ for many years. Now the world is poised to experience an automated dining experience.
With the rise of automation the kitchen is beginning to look different. Not only are the chefs and kitchen staff being replaced by robots, the kitchen itself is being automated. The front of house is not immune either; the waiting staff are beginning to disappear in some restaurants.
Fast food giant, McDonalds, is increasingly automating most operations. Cashiers are being steadily replaced with order kiosks run by software and computers. Pick-and-place.
Four MIT engineering graduates have gone into the restaurant business and shown the world the future with their automated kitchen. It is the brainchild of Michael Farid, who during his Masters in Mechanical Engineering, found that he had almost no time to cook himself meals.
Source: Mimi Phan, MIT Management Sloan School
He recruited Braden Knight, Luke Schlueter and Kale Rogers to acquire the technology they would need for the project of creating an automated kitchen. They, too, agreed that they couldn’t find a decent meal at an affordable price point as students. They subsequently began their work on the restaurant of the future. ‘’
In 2015, they took their idea to MIT’s Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator program. They had officially become a startup. They gave the restaurant they would open a name: Spyce.
When they had all the robotics figured out, they had to get a menu going. Therefore, they brought in a gentleman named Daniel Boulud, a Culinary Director and Michelin-Star Chef. Michael Farid guessed Boulud’s email address and asked if he wouldn’t mind creating a menu for their automated kitchen. Boulund says the robotic kitchen brings ‘precision’ and ‘consistency’ to the kitchen – something which humans struggle with.
They eventually opened the restaurant in downtown Boston on May 3rd, 2018. What’s on the menu? An assortment of stir-frys. So how does the restaurant work?
Customers are ushered in by a host. Food is ordered via an automated kiosk. The automated kitchen then gets to work after which the woks tip the food into bowls. The wok even sprays itself clean. The last part of the process involves a human worker – he/she adds the required garnish and seals the bowl with a lid.
Every bowl costs US$7.50. Patrons can opt to add proteins for an extra cost.
The woks are induction heated and toss the food around to give the food a thorough cook. The entire process begins with a simple click of a button.
To see how it all came together, check this video out:
The replacement of human workers in the food industry is already causing some consternation in the industry. Members of Las Vegas’ Culinary Workers Union recently went on strike to force employers to amend their contracts to protect their jobs from being replaced by automated technologies.
But Luke Schlueter, the head mechanical engineer on the project, has made assurances that only one or two processes have been automated in their kitchen and that humans are still as vital as ever. He said:
“Our robotic kitchen was designed to be a tool. At our restaurant, our robotic kitchen allows our managers to focus on making our bowls look beautiful, applying the finishing touches, and being creative. We also have a commissary team that preps our ingredients for the robotic kitchen. We’ve designed the robotic kitchen to work in harmony with humans, because without humans, our robotic kitchen would not function.”
Coxworth, Ben. “Restaurant Keeps Its Prices down – with a Robotic Kitchen.” New Atlas – New Technology & Science News, New Atlas, 29 May 2018, newatlas.com/spyce-restaurant-robotic-kitchen/54818/.
“Las Vegas Food Service Workers Are Going on Strike so They Don’t Lose Their Jobs to Robots.” Futurism, Futurism, 29 May 2018, futurism.com/las-vegas-food-service-workers-strike-automation/.
“Spyce Restaurant Opens with Robotic Kitchen Ready to Serve.” Should the Federal Government Raise the Minimum Wage to $15? – MIT Sloan School of Management, mitsloan.mit.edu/newsroom/articles/spyce-restaurant-opens-with-robotic-kitchen-ready-to-serve/.