Building the Automated Kitchen was a fascinating panel at the Food On Demand Conference, and not just because Flippy, Sippy and other neato robots are taking over unpleasant tasks while allowing human former fry cooks to be redeployed.
Pizza chains using Perfect Company tech are reducing “over-cheesing” and other human errors that can add up to 40 pounds of food waste per day. Wing Zone can use a robot to man—make that “machine”— the fryer and stay open all night when it’s nearly impossible to get a person to work. And chains like Jack in the Box that use “Flippy,” the robot from Miso Robotics, can cut their employees at the fry station from two to less than one-half.
“We’re radically kind of changing the economic model of operating restaurants,” said David Bloom, chief operating and development officer at Capriotti’s and Wing Zone. “I will say it’s a long-term process. It involves modifying our cooking processes and working with our supply chain so it works better.”
About a half-dozen years ago, when delivery-service partners were just launching, “about half of the restaurant world lived in: this is not going to stay. These companies aren’t going to make money.’ We took the other side of it: We’re going to get in early, we’re going to invest, we’re going to learn how to optimize on these platforms,” Bloom said. “That’s our approach, partner with the right people, get in early and help figure it out.”
Nicholas Upton, technology editor at Food On Demand, asked Bloom how the humans like working alongside robots. “For Wing Zone, it’s hard to find people at night,” but with robots “I can stay open until 2 in the morning or stay open all night,” he said. “The employees were ecstatic. ‘This is so cool man, I no longer have to stand over that fryer for 12 hours a day.’ That was transformative for them.”
Perfect Company is tackling automation in the kitchen to address two problems, says President Jim Collins. “One was food waste. We knew that the average unit in one of our client’s chains was over-producing food at a rate of roughly 40 pounds a day and throwing all that away. They literally had compacter garbage cans out back that they had to have dumped every night. We started attacking it at the food waste level, but quickly realized that the biggest challenge in these kitchens is employee training, turnover and employee retention.”
In client kitchens, walls would be covered with papers telling people how to do their jobs, “and in a lot of cases the paper on the walls was put there two years ago,” Collins said. His company puts a tablet in front of the employees to tell …….