Image credit: RoboEatz
Contactless dining has become increasingly popular as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. Use of delivery and carry-out helped struggling restaurants survive, and fresh-food vending machines, such as Farmer’s Fridge, shot up early in the pandemic. Now robotic kitchens are making a play in the contactless dining space.
Robotic kitchens are stand-alone enclosures that use an articulating robotic arm to make a variety of meals. Human interaction is scant, reducing potential exposure to illness. Embedded sensors curb food waste by monitoring ingredient freshness and inventory. Self-cleaning features limit foodborne illnesses and dietary cross contamination.
Chef Robot Can Prep, Cook, and Plate
RoboEatz, a global food technology company, developed the ARK 03, a 200 square-foot autonomous robotic kitchen system that can store, prepare, and plate food, and place it in a temperature-controlled cubby for the customer to retrieve. The ARK 03 system is designed for use in hospitals, QSRs, and campuses and provides fresh, customizable meals around the clock.
The ARK 03 uses an articulating arm to collect ingredients from designated hoppers, place them into a rotating induction cooker, and plate the finished product. Recipes are pre-programmed into the system software, and each enclosure can hold 80 ingredients. Using a mobile app, diners can order and customize their entrees and watch a livestream of the cooking process.
Ingredients are weighed upon preparation of a meal to ensure quality control and to maintain costs and nutrition data. The ARK 03 system automatically tracks inventory and detects when ingredients are low using sensors embedded within the hoppers. These sensors also check ingredient freshness and temperature to ensure food is safe to consume.
Image credit: RoboEatz
When the sensors detect low ingredient levels, the ARK 03 system can automatically order additional ingredients through wholesale providers. The system can also trigger discounts for specific entrees when the ingredient freshness date is approaching. Between each use, the robot self-sanitizes to prevent cross contamination and to kill viruses. Approximately 1,000 meals can be made before the system requires a human to refill its ingredient hoppers.
From Arm to Table
London-based food robotics company, Karakuri, recently unveiled a similar robotic kitchen concept, the DK-One. This compact robotic kitchen uses an articulating arm to prepare both hot and cold bowls using 18 fresh ingredients. Like the ARK 03 system, diners customize orders, check order status, and find nutrition information using a mobile app.
Embedded sensors monitor the temperature and quantity of ingredients. Artificial intelligence analyzes ingredient consumption and calculates future needs using a detailed data logging system that records the weight of ingredients used, their temperature, and the time of use. This helps to reduce food waste and costs. The DK-One system currently requires human employees to refill ingredients, stock containers, and monitor equipment. With a 6-foot square footprint, the DK-One is designed for grocery stores, cafeterias, and smaller spaces.
Nala Robotics plans to open a robotic kitchen in Naperville, Illinois, this April. Using an AI-controlled robot, the company plans to create meals in ten different cuisines. Customers can place and customize orders using the Nala app. The robot uses an articulating arm to prepare the dish using fresh ingredients. Although the robotic kitchen operates autonomously, humans are required to monitor the system and refill ingredients.
Robotic kitchens offer a unique dining experience that encourages food safety and sustainability by monitoring ingredients and limiting waste. Their contactless interaction and around-the-clock availability make them a pandemic-resistant dining option.
See What’s Cooking in Kitchen Automation