Terminator in the Kitchen? – Food Service Automation from an Industrial Perspective

| February 15, 2022

Have you seen the movie The Founder? It’s an in-depth account of how McDonalds pioneered their market by focusing on efficient processes. From kitchen layout to flow of workers, each step was dissected for optimal efficiency. Even though I have a career long background in manufacturing, I can’t help but draw similarities between F&B operations and factory work. Today I’m going to share with you some insights about food service robotics from the perspective of someone who has spent 10+ years in industrial settings ranging from metal foundries and electronic cleanrooms to automotive plants.

“Robots are going to take our jobs”

Most see this comment as a negative one. One where machines are prioritized over our not so metallic co-workers. It’s just the opposite. From an industrial setting, robots are sought after to alleviate the three D’s: Dull, Dirty, and Dangerous jobs. In fact, North American robot sales rose 28% from 2020 to 2021. For the first time ever, a majority of these sales were from outside the automotive industry (source: the Robot Report). In manufacturing they are not a novelty, they are an essential tool that is needed to compete and keep the doors open. So instead, let’s embrace the idea of automation in the right application.

“Efficiency must outlast novelty”

Emerging robotic companies can’t focus too much on the novelty. It’s great to introduce these futuristic tools to the everyday consumer but the longevity, as a sector, must be associated to a return on investment for the operator. Each feature should be linked to a measurable value and be considered on a “must have basis”. Here are some key points to consider when evaluating an application for a food service operation.

•Understand your existing metrics and how you currently utilize your labor so you can measure the potential benefit of automation.

•Make sure there are provisions to produce the product (or service) if the automation fails. Beware of claims for ‘zero labor’ or ‘virtually maintenance free’.

•Think BIG by outlining all the variations, future processes, and wish lists. Flexibility is cheapest in the conception stage.

We are at a convergence. While wages continue to increase, the cost of robots remain fairly economical. This opens up applications that were not previously thought about and the ROI works all of a sudden. With a world that is continually driven by data, the rise of the machines will eventually make their way to the front of the house. There will still be people, but you will see a shift in how we work. Consistent and predictable processes will lead to a finer resolution of your metrics and inventory. All the way down to the last popcorn kernel…

About the Author:
Grayson Dawson is a recent member of NAC and founded Hop Robotics (www.HopRobotics.com), a food technology company that leverages industrial automation and robotics to create efficient and engaging food service solutions (including draft beer). Determined to bring his passion for innovative solutions to the hospitality and events industry, he has teamed up with several robot manufacturers and brings extensive knowledge of how to spec, deploy, and maintain automated systems that work with staff. He and his team are on the lookout for those willing to tap into the known benefits of robotics.

2021 sets robot sales record for North America (therobotreport.com)

Category: Member News

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