PARIS: During the Super Bowl, spectators at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood near Los Angeles will have the chance to try out a new kind of food truck. There will be no vendor or cook inside.
A simple screen will let them choose the composition of their ramen. And in a few seconds, their meal will be served and delivered through a small hatch.
This food truck of the future has been developed by a San Francisco start-up, which has previously worked on vending machines, serving up the famous Japanese soup in just 45 seconds.
The machines are currently being deployed in American universities and airports.
After a presentation at this year’s CES in Las Vegas in January, Yo-Kai Express is getting ready for the first public appearance of its food truck during one of the most high-profile events of the year in the US.
At first, the start-up had worked on the concept of a mobile restaurant that could be stopped in the street by simply hailing it with a smartphone.
For a long time, it was thought that these kinds of initiatives would remain in the realm of prototypes, mainly deployed to demonstrate the full capabilities of robotics in order to cast light on a potential future.
At a time when the restaurant industry is sorely lacking in manpower – more than 4.1 million restaurant workers left the sector between July and November last year in the US, according to figures from the Department of Labor – robots that can replace cooks and service personnel are becoming a reality.
Even Pizza Hut is giving it a shot! In Israel, the manager of a franchise is serving customers without a single member of staff, relying instead on a fully automated process.
The machine, which works inside a large container, prepares and garnishes the dough, then cooks the pizza and packs it in a box.
The only thing it can’t do is prepare the pizza dough. The Hyper-Robotics startup, meanwhile, has developed a system capable of preparing 50 pizzas per hour.
Even in France, the land of gastronomy, some are drooling over the business potential of robot-chefs.
In Paris, carbonara and bolognese are now being prepared not by an Italian cook with a lilting accent, but by a robot.
The Cala start-up has raised €5.5 million to sustain its pasta business, which began in the fall of 2020 via delivery platforms like Deliveroo and Uber Eats, before a bricks-and-mortar outlet opened near the city’s Jussieu university campus.
And Eat Cala isn’t banking on the robotization concept to appeal to geeky students, instead it is hoping to appeal to people’s taste buds with quality ingredients.
From robots in the agricultural sector for planting seeds and harvesting crops, to robots facilitating food cleaning to spare humans from the tedious tasks – not to mention robots packaging cookies – robotics is already helping us feed ourselves. What’s new is the ability to replace human staff when it’s time to get behind the stove, if not to serve us our meals.
This automation of kitchen and service jobs is just beginning. According to a report by Lightspeed, a company that deploys software for various businesses, half of restaurant managers in the US intend to integrate some form of automation into their business within two to three years.
A reality that can hardly be disputed, considering the growth that awaits food tech. In 2019, an Emergen Research study estimated that the sector should grow by 6% by 2027 to reach US$342 billion.