April 1, 2019 |
Countless science-fiction movies have drilled quite precise pictures in our heads of how “the future” will look like. There will be flying cars, underwater cities and of course loads of robots in every aspects of our life.
In 2018, four graduates of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), decided that the future is now and worked on a solution to introduce robots into the restaurant industry. Kale Rogers, Michael Farid, Brady Knight and Luke Schlueter launched their fast-casual restaurant concept called Spyce in downtown Boston, where the entire kitchen operation is handled by robots.
Spyce is currently offering half a dozen dishes from Latin, Asian and Mediterranean cuisines, all served in bowls. The prices are kept low and start out at just $7.50 per bowl. The explanation for this relatively low price tag is the cost saving achieved by using robots to prepare the meals. These savings are then passed directly on to the customer for an experience that’s both high-tech and wallet-friendly.
The founders say that initially they expected many people to come to the restaurant because of the novelty of seeing a robot prepare their food but the real benefit of the robotic kitchen comes from the quality and consistency of meals that they are able to serve. Because the robots are programmed to do the portioning and cooking in the exact same way every single time, the restaurant can ensure that the meals are being cooked and served consistently and accurately. Another advantage is that as the whole cooking process is taken care of by technology, it allows employees to focus on creating more meaningful connections with guests.
A human guide is meeting customers as a first touchpoint upon entering Spyce. This guide shows them to a touchscreen kiosk where they can browse the menu and place their order. The order is then directly transmitted to the open kitchen where the food is prepared by robots in plain sight. The ingredient delivery system collects the ingredients and portions them, before dropping them into one of the robotic woks. The pre-portioned ingredients are then mixed in the cylindrical, rotating drums and cooked at around 230°C using induction technology. Once each dish is ready it is handed over to a human employee to add a last touch such as sauces and garnishes, before it will be served to the customer. The robots then automatically clean themselves, consuming 80% less water than an average dishwasher in the process.
The culinary expertise for Spyce comes from none other than Michelin-starred celebrity chef Daniel Boulud who was so convinced of the concept after he saw the robots live in action for the first time that he signed on both as an investor and as the restaurant’s culinary director. He is creating the recipes along Sam Benson, who headed his kitchen at Café Boulud previously. Together they developed a menu that combines their expertise in the old-world techniques of French cuisine with modern technology.
One of the founders, Brady Knight recently said in an interview: “Running a restaurant is quite difficult, it’s an industry of low margins, with high turnover rates, and little room for error. While I can’t speak to the industry as a whole, our technology has allowed us to deliver incredible meals for $7.50 and serve them consistently and at profit. We’re excited to be part of the industry and grow with it.”
So far, it looks like the robots are doing a good job, since Spyce just announced $21 million in Series A funding. In its relatively short existence, the restaurant has won a big fan following due to both the technology innovation and of course because of the quality and prices of its food.
The latest funding comes from investors including Collaborative Fund, Maveron and Khosla Ventures as well as a few celebrity chefs such as Jérôme Bocuse, Thomas Keller and Gavin Kaysen. Spyce intends to use the money to fuel its first growth phase as the company wants to expand its market presence on the US east coast with the opening of several new restaurants, before embarking on a nationwide and later also international expansion.
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