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Robots are transforming the foodservice industry to help restaurants operate more efficiently.

Technology has revolutionized the manufacturing industry. Now, it’s translating that success into the restaurant industry on a broader scale. From robot food delivery to automated ordering systems, owners and operators are investing in food-tech to streamline their businesses in a way that cuts costs and maximizes on output.

Data suggests more businesses have started implementing robotics and automation for months, and it’s paying off. Productivity spiked 5.4% during the first three months of 2021, that’s the fastest rate in more than 20 years, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor. The substantial increase in productivity suggests there’s been more reliance on automation and tech.

And restaurant owners and operators continue to demand it, investing in the futuristic food tech. The service robotics industry is forecast to grow to $54.4 billion by 2026, that’s three times more than its $13.1 billion value in 2017, according to statistics from Polaris Market Research.

In fact, 87% of industry operators, owners and managers say technology adoption has been vital for survival through the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a “Global State of the Hospitality Industry” report from online market research firm Lightspeed. What’s more 47% of full-service operators and 37% of quick-service operators say this new technology is key for their businesses, according to the same report. Let’s take a closer look into a few companies making noise in the space.

AI in the Kitchen 

Perhaps one of the most futuristic examples of AI and automation being used in the kitchen to improve operations and the overall customer experience is startup Picnic, an automated pizza assembly system that uses a chef’s recipe to top dough with the exact amount of sauce and toppings creating a more consistent product and cutting labor costs. Because the technology is so precise with measurements, this saves operators money on food costs, since nothing extra is being used or going to waste.

Instead of having multiple staff members working the assembly line, the Picnic system uses the given restaurant’s existing menu to make up to 100 consistent pizzas per hour with a single, unassisted operator.  Not only does this make running the kitchen easy, but now staff can focus on the quality of the food, brand identity, and, of course, providing a top-tier customer experience.

The Seattle-based food company is also being used inside commercial kitchens to help churn out food for ghost kitchens, and one a larger scale, in small kitchen spaces at arenas.

Accuracy is key 

A number of AI driven startups are getting funding as they prove efficiency in restaurant kitchens and dining rooms. Restaurant tech-startup Agot AI, for example, which implements overhead cameras in kitchens to ensure orders are being prepared correctly, closed on a $10 million seed funding in September, CNBC reported.

Agot AI is meant to help improve labor in the kitchen and cut out customer wait times.
Ensuring orders are being prepared correctly is a major pain-point the restaurant industry has been facing, and can impact a restaurant’s bottom line when customers leave with the wrong order.

Agot co-founder and CEO Evan DeSantola told CNBC the food-tech can point out more than 85% of order inaccuracies and call them out to employees who can fix them in the kitchen before food is served to customers.

Automation Adoptions 

A number of nationally known restaurants are putting their money behind robots in particular to keep their businesses running amid on-going labor shortages. Burger chain White Castle has expanded its burger-grilling robot “Flippy” at several locations allowing its workers to focus on other kitchen tasks. The automated kitchen assistant was created by  Miso Robotics — a restaurant and bar management platform that uses robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and augmented reality to improve workflows in restaurants.

McDonald’s, meanwhile, has been testing out an automated drive-thru ordering system in Chicago that would digitize the drive-thru and in-restaurant experience. The goal is to cut down on customer wait times and save on labor costs. McDonald’s is also looking to innovate with kitchen technology like automated grills and fryers in the coming years, according to Restaurant Chicken chain Chick-fil-A is piloting robot delivery to transport its chicken sandwiches. And robots from Starship Technologies able to carry close to four large pizzas are roaming around college campuses across the country and in the U.K. On the retail and grocery front, Walmart is now using driverless trucks to help support its grocery delivery business.

The name of the game is serving more people in a timely manner while cutting costs and improving overall output.

Delivery Robots 

We can’t have a conversation about robotics and automation without mentioning an actual robot. Take Ottonomy for example. Their fully autonomous robots can deliver food & beverages, groceries, and packages to curbside, last mile, and even indoor environments. Ottonomy’s robots help navigate businesses with staffing shortages for retail and restaurant industries.

Ottonomy robots are available on a “RaaS” (Robotics as a Service) model and customers get access to a quicker, safer, and more economical delivery option as compared to traditional 3rd party delivery services.

Above all these robots are set to reduce carbon emissions and improve quality of life.


Operators are finding that AI, automation and robotics is working in conjunction with their staff, rather than replacing them and making everyone’s day-to-day jobs run smoother, and more efficiently. And in a labor market where the hospitality industry is already spread so thin, it’s filling in the gaps, assisting workers where they need it most to ensure customer satisfaction. Automating everyday restaurant and hospitality tasks — whether it’s making a pizza, delivering food or frying up french fries — is also empowering employees to shift their focus on what they love most about the hospitality business and, in turn, accomplish more.

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