2 min read

Fully-Autonomous Robot Restaurants

The first fully-autonomous restaurant to remove humans from the operation entirely opened about a month ago in San Francisco. The robot-run restaurant is called Mezli and serves Mediterranean grain bowls.

Mezli is basically a big refrigerated box with a bunch of machines inside. No humans required. – SF Eater

It’s a slightly more sophisticated process, of course, involving multiple task-oriented machines and computer vision algorithms to monitor the product at every stage. The result is a food-truck-sized kiosk that can serve fresh and quality food 24/7 (although it has limited hours today).

By eliminating the staff overhead, Mezli is able to make “Michelin-star food at McDonald’s prices.”

A similar autonomous restaurant was founded back in 2018 by four MIT graduates. It was called Spyce Kitchen and was acquired by Sweetgreen in 2021. Perhaps we have an autonomous salad restaurant coming in the future? Come to think of it, salads would be an ideal use case for this technology because there’s little to no cooking required by the robots. It’s just assembling ingredients.

What’s cool about these autonomous restaurants is that, for the foreseeable future, they have marketing baked into their product. Just the idea of getting served a meal by a robot is a spectacle itself and will drive consumer interest.

I think about the coffee robot in the SF airport or the robot bartenders in Japan, which garner huge audiences of buyers just because they’re so impressive to watch.

Investing in Autonomous Restaurants

I think autonomous restaurants will be a great place to park money because of their clear road to profitability. The trick is picking the right cuisine.

Ideally, you target cuisines that can create a lot of optionality in dishes with few ingredients. My mind goes to Taco Bell, which is routinely made fun of because its entire menu is the same 7 ingredients assembled in different ways. But in all seriousness, this is how autonomous restaurants will win.

I think that donuts, pastas, fried chicken, and rice-based meals are all ideal food products to exist as autonomous restaurants.

My money is on Hyper Food Robotics, which is developing the white-label technology to accelerate this autonomous restaurant industry:

Udi Shamai launched Hyper Food Robotics last November, starting with a pizza-making prototype the size of a 40-foot shipping container that can produce 50 pies an hour. Located just outside of Tel Aviv, the model operates using two robotic arms, 120 sensors, and 20 AI-powered cameras. It’s capable of serving a menu featuring four kinds of dough, eight toppings, and several side dishes.

Shamai expects to sell hundreds of Hyper’s plug-and-play pizza concepts in the next few years, with the goal of not only partnering with existing brands, but dark kitchen companies and third party platforms, too. – Back of House

Tesla has toyed with the idea of putting micro-restaurants near their superchargers to give their customers a place to eat or drink while their cars are charging. I wouldn’t be surprised if they eventually went the path of autonomous restaurants. One, because they employ some of the best roboticists in the world. Two, because this would be a low-cost, high-value addition to their charging network that would surely satisfy their customers.