Robots, once a distant sci-fi dream, have become more and more immersed in our daily lives. While smart vacuums like the Roomba are helping people clean their homes, other technologies like Nest are also helping the environment by minimizing wasted energy in thousands of houses.
Then there are technologies outside of homes, like Makr Shakr’s Robotic Bar System, which are poised to take the food and beverage industry to the next level by creating robotic bartenders that look like they're straight out of Star Wars. Spyce, a restaurant in New England, is taking it a step further and has created a restaurant where the robots are doing all the cooking.
This kitchen uses seven woks which spin, sear, and serve an array of meals. All orders are cooked in about three minutes once customers make their selection and place their order via the restaurant’s order screens. Once it plates the food, the robot wok quickly cleans itself and is ready to make another dish.
To operate, the kitchen skips natural gas and opts to cook with electricity, which is often considered a more sustainable option. The food is cooked using induction technology. The kitchen’s special operating system carefully monitors things like the water temperatures and refrigeration so that nothing is used unnecessarily or wasted.
To create the menu for this robotic kitchen, a human touch is still needed now and then. Two chefs work to create Spyce’s dish flavors and food pairings. Once the textures and tastes are selected, the ingredients are handed over to the robots to bring it all together. Much of the ingredients are locally sourced and organic.
While the seven basic bowls listed on the menu cater to a wide range of tastes and flavors, from Moroccan to Thai, the team decided to skip beef as an ingredient for sustainability reasons. Instead, customers can opt for chicken or plant-based sources for protein. The bowls are also customizable and cater to all kinds of dietary needs, such as vegan and gluten-free.
The four co-founders behind this futuristic restaurant came together while they were studying at the same university. The friends realized that finding cheap but nutritious food while eating out was a constant challenge. As engineering students, they put their heads together and built the first prototypes for the Spyce kitchen in the basement of their fraternity.
As a result, they found a way to bring down operational costs which often burden restaurants. While still a touch more expensive than typical fast food meals, Spyce bowls start at $7.50, which is still inexpensive compared to many healthy meals in large cities.
While accessible, healthy food options can benefit low-income diners who are often priced out of healthy food selections, some people are also concerned about robots taking over jobs. In the United States alone, there are 14 million people who work in the restaurant industry.
Spyce’s robots are built to function as refrigerators, dishwashers, stovetops and chefs all rolled into one unit. However, Spyce still hires people to do jobs like prepping the food in the open commissary and garnishing the bowls. Spyce declined an interview at this time.
Spyce recently opened it’s first location in downtown Boston and draws curious foodies and techies alike. Only time will tell if this robotic restaurant model catches on in the food industry and becomes the new normal. In the meantime, one has to wonder what outspoken food industry leaders like chef Gordon Ramsey might think of robotic chefs serving up dinner.