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In a World of Automation, should Chefs be Replaced by Cooking Robots?

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Hena Shah

When your customer’s order didn’t go as expected and their dissatisfaction leads to a disastrous outcome (like this Chinese restaurant in Louisiana), you might wonder if it’s possible to be constantly consistent?

The answer is. Yes, it is. If you have a robot chef.

Thanks to all the sci-fi movies, we imagine robots to be like Transformers and Terminators. Though in reality robot chefs don’t have a mind of their own (or not yet), they can offer extreme precisions and consistencies that is hard for humans to master. That’s also the reason why many fast food chains and delivery services are the first adopters of robots. From self-ordering kiosks and self-checkouts to robot chefs, automation technology has brought restaurant greater efficiency and convenience, but is the invention of cooking robots a by-product of our obsession with automation or is the robot something we need in order to advance the culinary industry and customers’ experiences?

The merits of having robot chefs are arguable, but the fact that the sales of industrial robot have increased 31 percent worldwide in 2017 proves that the demand is certainly there. Take a look at Spyce, a new healthy joint in Boston that offers a variety of salad bowls. They are one of the pioneers in introducing a robotic kitchen. By replacing lined chefs with an assembly line of robotic woks, they are able to complete an order in just 3 minutes and at the same time offer a more affordable price point. Salad bowls are priced from $7.50 which is a third cheaper than other salad chains with human workers.

Similarly Zume, a pizza delivery service, introduced cooking robots to work alongside human workers. Pizza robots are responsible for pressing doughs into circular pizza bases and applying a tomato paste, while human workers make sure the toppings are decorated beautifully on each pizza. The use of robots allows Zume to halve the pizza preparation time and investing more resources rather than workers who are carrying out repetitive tasks.

While Spyce and Zume show that robots are efficient in performing set jobs, others like Moley demonstrate that robot chefs are capable of executing complicated recipes. The advancement of robotic technology has undoubtedly provided speediness and accuracy for cooking; however, for the restaurant workers in Vegas, it appears to be more of a threat than a celebration. Last month, over 50,000 union workers of the Las Vegas hospitality industry threw hands at the thought of machines stealing their jobs. Although robots may potentially replace some human workers, it’s not entirely true that human workers are worth less. At the coastline in California, a burger restaurant in San Francisco pays their workers $16 an hour for self-advancement despite the fact that all the cooking is done by machines. So after all, can human chefs and robot chefs coexist and compliment each other? As of now, cooking chefs are designed to do all the heavy lifting while humans contribute to the creative aspect of cooking. Robots are built to allow people to focus creativity and hospitality. Like Paul Montenko says, “Technology when it helps the guests and humanity when it’s better for the guest”.

It’s difficult to predict whether more restaurants will move towards automation; but if more and more restaurants choose to adopt robots, would future restaurants be rated based on their level of hospitality instead of the tastiness of food?

What do you think of kitchen robots? How much of a restaurant should be automated? Let us know what you think on Twitter.

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“You need to keep tasting things if you haven't found your thing” - Gary Vaynerchuk

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TableCheck releases the latest data analysis on the restaurant industry every Tuesday at Noon ※Updated on 9th July, 2021

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