In the latest episode of Hospitality Hangout, Michael Schatzberg “The Restaurant Guy” and Jimmy Frischling “ The Finance Guy” chat with Buck Jordan, Founder and CEO of Wavemaker Labs, to discuss his early fascination with automation and scaling brands through robotics.
Frischling asks Jordan to share a little about his background and Wavemaker Labs. Jordan talks about first being exposed to automation 20 years ago, when he was an armor officer going through tank training in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
He vividly recalls seeing four, unmanned, armored, personnel carriers whizzing by at 40 miles per hour and how that moment planted a seed that would blossom into a career in automation, which ultimately led him to found Wavemaker Labs. He shares that the company’s mission is to automate the supply chain of food, from seed to fork, with the outcome being higher quality food, with less cost to the masses. He explains that they take the highest consumption food categories in the United States and automate them. He says, “We believe that our business will end up kind of along two tracks, one, supplying the existing brands with automation solutions and helping them, you know, kind of modernize and reinvent themselves. And then two, we are also building a suite of digitally native brands that we’ll be operating.”
The guys talk about ways Wavemaker Labs is solving some of the biggest problems in the restaurant industry. Jordan tells the guys that he has always liked the idea of robots doing jobs that are too dangerous for humans to do or simply tasks that they don’t want to do. As an example, many operators, clients, and friends complain about dishwashing. Jordan talks about not only automated dishwashing but also, fryers as well as other robotic kitchen assistants. Jordan shares that while he is excited to build his brand, it’s also about, he says, “Really enabling existing brands to scale faster and better.”
When Jordan is asked to elaborate on a quote that he made about franchising being dead, he talks about the logistics and challenges around the franchise model. Jordan says, “Well, let me just walk you through the logic, right? So in the ’60s and ’70s, every QSR went 99% franchising as fast as they possibly could. Why’d they do that? Because it costs anywhere from half a million to three million to build a restaurant. And then you gotta manage dozens and dozens of people on and off a shift, and so just offload that expense and that management headache to the franchisees. That’s what the brands did.” He adds, “But the future, if the future really is 100% fully automated and if the future successful brands are going be digitally native brands, meaning that their menus have been designed to be a hundred percent automated, then do you really need franchising again?” He talks about how vending machines will be able to make and deliver Michelin-level, incredible food. Jordan asks, “Do you really need to have a franchisee do that? Especially when you’re a big brand and you can finance the cost of that machine.”
Tune in to learn more. You can subscribe and listen to Hospitality Hangout Podcast on Spotify or directly on the Foodable Network.
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