Restaurant keeps its prices down – with a robotic kitchen
If there's one thing that robots are good for, it's reducing costs by performing tasks that would otherwise go to human workers. That was part of the inspiration behind Spyce, a new budget-friendly fast food restaurant that has a robotized kitchen.
Spyce was founded by MIT engineering grads Michael Farid, Braden Knight, Luke Schlueter and Kale Rogers, who developed the necessary technology through MIT's 2015 Global Founders' Skills Accelerator program. Farid first came up with the idea when he was getting his masters in mechanical engineering and didn't have time to cook his own meals, yet was dismayed at the high prices of decent restaurant food.
The resulting business opened in downtown Boston on May 3rd.
Upon entering, customers are greeted by a human host, who guides them to a row of touchscreen kiosks. There, they place their order – the menu currently consists of six stir-fry bowls "with flavors that are common in Latin, Mediterranean, and Asian dishes." These were designed by an advisor on the project, Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulu. The price for each bowl is US$7.50, although customers can add other proteins for an additional cost.
Once an order has been placed, the robotic kitchen sets about preparing it. It does so by dumping raw ingredients into one of seven rotating induction-heated woks that are tilted forward, so that customers can watch the process from the other side of the counter. After the food is cooked – which only takes about three minutes – a human "garde manger" adds cold garnishes to it, then brings it out to the customer.
Over the next few months, the team will focus on refining the concept, with an eye towards opening other Spyce restaurants in the city. That said, there are no immediate plans to eliminate the human side of the business.
"Our robotic kitchen was designed to be a tool," says Schlueter. "At our restaurant, our robotic kitchen allows our garde mangers to focus on making our bowls look beautiful, applying the finishing touches, and being creative. We also have a commissary team that preps our ingredients for the robotic kitchen. We've designed the robotic kitchen to work in harmony with humans, because without humans, our robotic kitchen would not function."
You can see the robotic kitchen in action, in the following video.