Exclusive: RoboChef Comes Out of Stealth to Bake Cookies
Plus: Will Toronto say no-no to sidewalk robos? Rowok's debut, Ottonomy hits the curb and Serve gets served ($13 million).
RoboChef’s robot is one Smart Cookie
RoboChef came out of stealth exclusively on OttOmate this week. Aside from its great taste in news organizations, RoboChef also has great taste when it comes to automated food. RoboChef has built Smart Cookie, a standalone robotic kiosk that makes, well, cookies, obvi.
The company has been running a pilot installation at the Dipwich sandwich shop in Huntsville, Alabama since September. Because baking cookies from scratch would take far too long, the Smart Cookie stores 40 par-baked pucks of cookie dough, re-heating them on demand. Customers can choose from three types of cookies (chocolate, lemon and sugar), customize them with sweet drizzles and toppings and get them served warm and oh-so-ooey-gooey right out the automated oven.
During my interview with him, RoboChef Founder and CEO Aravind Durai made it clear that his company is not in the cookie-selling business and that his robotic platform is versatile enough to handle other types of food. While I applaud his ambition, I think RoboChef is on to something quite big just with Smart Cookie. I mean, lots of places like airports, theme parks, and schools could all use some automated cookie action.
Jump back to the site for all the details you could ever want about Smart Cookie (and even video showing all the robotic cookie goodness!), and why it’s a smart idea.
NSF: Get in the (food and splash) zone
Our weekly series with NSF International continues with some helpful information about The Importance of Hygienic Design. Do you know your NSF/ANSI 8 from your NSF/ANSI 18 standards? (See the excerpt below for the answers!)
This ongoing guide can help any hardware startup speed up the process of getting the much-needed NSF Certification for food safety. Here’s an little taste from this week’s post:
Our 21 NSF/ANSI standards for commercial food equipment are designed to establish food protection and sanitation requirements for the materials, design, construction and performance of food handling and processing equipment. ANSI, which stands for American National Standards Institute, provides our standards with accreditation.
Our standards are based on the FDA Food Code. Today, public health authorities across the United States rely on NSF certification when ensuring that commercial food equipment meets hygienic and food safety requirements.
Each standard is designed to cover specific equipment (e.g. NSF/ANSI 8 for blenders, deli slicers and NSF/ANSI 18 for beverage dispensers). To determine which standard(s) apply to your product, first ask:
What is it? (e.g. coffee machine)
What does it do? (e.g. brew coffee)
What does it use to do it? (e.g. tubing, water reservoir, warming plate)
Which standard scope applies? (e.g. NSF/ANSI 4)
You’ll then be able to understand what standard(s), and therefore requirements, apply to your product.
And be sure to bookmark (do people still bookmark webpages?) the Complete OttOmate Guide to NSF Certification, which collects all the entries in the series.
Rowok rocks (🤘) full robot in public debut
OttOmate scored two scoops of
raisins news this week. SJW Robotics gave us a sneak peek at its new Rowok all-in-one robotic kitchen kiosk before its big public debut on Tuesday. The Rowok has six woks, holds 24 different ingredients and sauces and can make 300 meals before needing to be re-stocked.
SJW’s Rowok brand is focused on Asian-inspired noodle and rice dishes (think: pad thai and green curry chicken), but SJW is already planning for the same machine to handle other cuisines like Italian, Mexican and Indian.
Rowok is the latest entrant into the increasingly crowded world of robotic restaurants-in-a-box that also includes Aitme, Mezli, and Nommi (is there a rule that you have to end your robot with the “ē” sound?) to name a few.
Check the full story for all the details on the Rowok, pricing and where it will place its first installations.
bp gasses up cashierless checkout with Grabango
Energy giant bp will use Grabango’s cashierless checkout technology at ten of its ampm and Amoco locations starting some time in the middle of next year. The initial phase will start with seven ampm locations in Northern California, and three Amocos in Western Pennsylvania.
This is the third convenience store chain that has signed on to use Grabango’s tech. Giant Eagle’s GetGo Market was the first, and Circle K rolled out in Tucson, Arizona last month.
I wrote this morning how cashierless checkout is poised to hit some kind of tipping point next year. Read the full story for the key players making big moves next year, and how Amazon looms over them all.
OttOmate’s Airport Event is December 16th (no ticket required!)
Ask just about any food automation startup where they want to install their machines and they’ll tell you airports. Airports have a ton of customers who want good food quickly, around the clock — it’s the perfect combo for asipring robot startups.
But how do you get into airports? What security measures do you have to go through? How do you pick a location? What delivery options are there?
The OttOmate Airport Event will answer all of these questions! We’ve got a stellar lineup of speakers from the Port of Seattle (Sea-Tac airport), Yo-Kai Express, Basil Street Pizza, Cafe X, Zippin and Ottonomy sharing their knowledge and expertise about airports.
Best of all, these fireside chats will be available on-demand on December 16. No need to buy a ticket or block time on your calendar. Just binge these talks on your own time. They are, however, available only to paid OttOmate subscribers — so become one today to help your business take off at airports!
Ottonomy and Presto hit the curb
Presto is integrating robot delivery into its suite of restaurant tech solutions, thanks to a new partnership with Ottonomy announced this week. Rather than going the last mile, Ottonomy’s robots will be going the middle meter, shuttling orders from the restaurant out to a parking lot or curbside for customer pickup.
This actually seems like a smart idea for a lot of reasons: contactless delivery, freeing up humans for higher value tasks, freeing up humans from having to walk out in the rain, etc. So I do like it in theory.
Though as I’ve thought about it more this week, the one hiccup could be in customer service. Heaven forbid that an order is wrong. Customers can’t just put food and a note back in the robot and send it to the manager. In fact, customers might get more annoyed if they have to get out of their car and go into the store. It’s not the hugest problem in the world, but one restaurants will have to look out for. Hopefully if workers don’t have to carry meals out to parking lots, they can pay more attention to orders to make sure they are correct the first time.
7-Eleven, Uber, Wavemaker (and more) deliver $13M to Serve Robotics
I have fond memories of 7-Eleven. As a kid I enjoyed Coke-flavored Slurpees in giant collectible cups. When I lived in Hawaii, we would stop by 7-Eleven to grab Spam musubis after a day at the beach. It’s too bad I don’t live near a 7-Eleven now, because pretty soon I could have those treats delivered to me via robot.
Robot delivery startup Serve Robotics announced a $13 million expanded Seed round of funding this week from investors including 7-Eleven, Uber, Wavemaker Labs and others. The new money comes almost exactly three years after Serve debuted it’s cute li’l yellow robot to the world (back when it was at Postmates. Which was acquired by Uber. Which then spun out Serve. And then partnered with Serve for deliveries in L.A.).
But I digress. The interesting story here is 7-Eleven. It’s investment in Serve comes just a week after it announced a partnership with Nuro. The c-store is ramping up autonomous delivery, to get Slim Jims and Slurpees directly to your front door.
Click back to the site to get more details about Serve’s fundraise, and why I think it’s robot is actually a great fit for 7-Eleven (Oh thank heaven).
Big trouble for Tiny Mile in Toronto?
The stereotype about Canadians is that they are painfully nice and apologize for everything. But a legitimate fight appears to be breaking out in the city of Toronto over the use of delivery robots.
The city council there is poised to pass a regulation next week prohibiting “micro-utility devices” like delivery robots from city sidewalks. The rationale for the ban is that these types of robots scurrying around on sidewalks pose a threat to people with disabilities.
Such a ban would obviously crush Tiny Mile, delivery robot service that has been operating in Toronto over the past year — with support from local officials there.
This is a complicated issue. Technology should be equitably accessible and not an impediment to those with disabilities. But is an outright ban the answer? Robots have their own set of benefits includeing expanding delivery access to more people, and they provide a contactless exchange during an ongoing pandemic.
A petition is now up to appeal to the Toronto City Council ahead of its December 15th meeting. You can read our original story here, but you should actually head over to Linkedin, where stakeholders are in the midst of a thoughtful discussion about the issue.
That’s it for this week! Thanks for reading.
Stay cool. Have a great summer. Class of ‘90 rulez.
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