Robots make our cars and they make our tools. They make our furniture and our refrigerators. Now, robots even make our lunches. An increasing number of restaurants are using automation for everything from ordering and paying to cooking and delivery. Here’s a look at different robots in restaurants.
McDonald’s introduced automated kiosks in the U.S. in 2015. The large touch screens allow you to place your order, customize your meals, and pay directly at the kiosk. So far, the kiosks have been successful and the chain plans to continue adding kiosks at most of its locations.
Popular chains such as Chili’s, Red Robin, and Olive Garden use Ziosk to automate the ordering process at restaurants. The Ziosk tablets are located at each table. You order appetizers, drinks, and meals directly from the tablet. The tablets also offer games and add-ons, some of which you pay to play.
Mobile ordering apps that give you the option to place your order and pay from your mobile device or desktop are also growing in popularity. Waitr is an app that works with individual restaurants, but many restaurants have developed their own apps.
Do you remember Flippy? Flippy was a robot that flipped hamburgers. That’s it. Well, the premium version of Flippy also cleaned the grill. So the base model at $60,000 would flip burgers and the deluxe model at $100,000 would also clean the flattop. Flippy is currently on leave, however. He wasn’t flipping burgers fast enough.
Creator introduced an “all-in-one burger machine” that puts Flippy to shame. Creator’s burger robot doesn’t just flip burgers. It completely automates the burger making process; all that workers have to do is load the machine. It slices vegetables and buns, and even grinds the meat to order. The robot has 350 sensors and 20 computers, and makes 130 burgers per hour, all for $6 a burger.
The robots at Zume work alongside humans on an assembly line to build pizza pies from the dough up.
Spyce is another interesting use of robots in restaurants. This Boston-based restaurant is a collaboration between MIT graduates and a world-famous French chef and restaurateur that uses automated cook pots for a unique, affordable, and nutritious meal made by robots.
Automating the ordering process and cooking are easy. Getting the food to the table is the challenge. Restaurants are far from the predictable and controlled environments that you find on factory floors. From tables to chairs to dishes to utensils to patrons, you never know exactly where something is going to be at any given moment.
Still, we’re finding ways to automate food delivery.
For the past few years, humanoid robot waiters have navigated restaurants in China.
Domino’s unleashed a pizza delivery robot in Australia. It can travel 12.5 mph and uses cameras to catch pizza thieves in the act.
Why put robots in restaurants?
All of the benefits of automation in manufacturing apply to automation elsewhere. Automation is more affordable, more convenient, more efficient, more accurate, and more reliable than human workers. Plus, robots don’t mind hot, greasy, and repetitive work.
What do customers think about robots in restaurants? One poll found that 78% of customers prefer to order from a person than an automated kiosk.
Some people worry that automation in restaurants will affect employment. Manufacturing has shown us that increased automation doesn’t lead to mass unemployment. More robots simply mean that labor is moved around. People perform more meaningful tasks rather than grind out repetitive grunt work.
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