Aramark and Chartwells Make Robot Moves
It’s been a couple o’ weeks since this last newsletter. I turned a year older and had to do a little traveling (did anything big happen while I was out?).
One thing that did happen was food robots got a bit of a drubbing from The Wall Street Journal last week. Yeesh. The story was a bit of a re-hash of news we knew, like Chili’s dropping robot servers. But, don’t feel glum, OttO-chums. There was actually some good robo-food news that happened over the past week. So take, THAT, WSJ
Aramark Deutschland Says “Ja bitte” to Aitme
Foodservice operator Aramark Deutschland announced that it will start using fellow German startup, Aitme’s all-in-one robot canteen. In an announcement posted to Linkedin earlier this week, Aramark Deutschland wrote [translated]:
In cooperation with the Berlin start-up #Aitme, we are setting a new milestone in #Betriebsgastronomie🍴. Next spring, we will be the first #Catering company in Germany to bring fully automated kitchen robots to company restaurants, taking the #Digitalisierung of company catering to a new level.
For those unfamiliar with Aitme, it is among a co-hort of all-in-one robotic kiosks that are basically automated restaurants-in-a-box. Other players in the space include SJW Robotics, Nommi, Karakuri and more.
The idea is that instead of a corporate campus needing to build out and staff a full kitchen, setting up an Aitme could do the same job in a smaller footprint with far fewer people.
The technology has yet to be tested, and is far, far, far from scale yet — but! These restaurants in boxes are coming along at an interesting time, to say the least. We’re kinda out of the pandemic, but what “offices” are any more is still being determined. Will companies still offer full catering if workers only come in two days of the week?
Not only that, but think about the wave of big layoffs throughout the tech world. Companies like Facebook spearheaded full-on catering at the office. This in turn forced smaller tech startups with less cash to follow suit in order to compete for talent. But with massive layoffs at Facebook (and well, everywhere), the talent pool is much deeper now and companies may not need to offer so many aggresive and expensive perks.
Restaurants-in-a-box are interesting because they (ideally) replicate the cafteria offering (on a more limited basis) without a huge cost to the company. Plus those robots can serve people around the clock/any shift.
Partnering with Aramark is a smart idea for Aitme. Aramark will have those corporate relationships already, so Aitme can focus on on the tech. Now we just need to see what corporate catering even looks like in the coming months.
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Chartwells Gets Cookin’ With RoboBurger
RoboBurger has been a busy startup lately! Last month the company announced it raised $10M in funding, and this past week, the company said on Linkedin that it opened up another one of its burger-grilling vending machines on the campus of St. John’s University in Queens, New York.
But more interesting was the fact that RoboBurger opened up its new location in partnership with foodservice operator Chartwells.
But more interesting that that was the fact that this is the second big food robot partner for Chartwells, which earlier this year installed one of Picnic’s pizza-making robots in a pilot at Texas A&M University.
Now. Two robot installations does not a trend make, but it’s worth watching to see who else Chartwells might hook up with and whether the foodservice operator will be as aggressive with robot/automation as its rival Sodexo.
And lastly, I want to throw your eyeballs over to the excellent Expedite newsletter, which has a story up this week about Sweetgreen looking to implement two of the “infinite kitchen” robots the company acquired when it bought Spyce.