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This NSF Q&A Could Save Your Startup
Plus a big week for robot restaurants-in-a-box, Flippy 2: The Flippening and the magic of Dishcraft.
The NSF Q&A that is totally SFW
Quick question for all the food/drink robot startup founders reading this newsletter. Is your machine NSF Certified?
Follow up question for all the schools, restaurants and such installing newfangled food/drink robots. Are those machines NSF Certified?
I’ve talked about NSF Certification with various food robot startups for years, but thought it would be helpful to OttOmate readers if we dug a little deeper. So I chatted this week with Orsi Dezsi, Director, Global Food Safety – Equipment & Chemical Evaluation at NSF who not only answered just about any question you might have about the process and cost of getting NSF Certified, but also sent over some helpful links and resources to help anyone get started.
The full Q&A is for paid OttOmate subscribers, but here’s a quick snippet to get you started.
OttOmate: Why should someone go through the process of getting NSF certified?
Dezsi: Essentially what we're doing is looking at a product from the food safety perspective. So UL will look at a product to see if it blows up — electrical components. From an NSF perspective: is the food that you're going to eat out of that product safe? Has it been handled safely? So one of the reasons you're going to want to get an NSF certification is when products go into either restaurants or on the street and you have health departments that are coming in to audit those facilities. They're looking for that assurance that the product has undergone some sort of hygienic design review/material review that public health review, which is what we're offering.
Can you give me some basic things people might not think about as they're designing a food robot or vending machine that makes it safe for food?
We're looking at things like joint seams — are their open seams where food or different food sediment can seep into and then get caught where it can't be cleaned out? Fastening methods, radiuses, even something as simple as a sink — think of those corners coming together, like 90 degrees, you can’t actually clean up little dirt that goes into those radiuses.
It was a big week for restaurants-in-a-box
Fully autonomous restaurants tucked inside what are essentially shipping containers had their moment in the robotic sun this week.
Things started off on Monday with Tel Aviv-based Hyper, which showed off a video of its robo-pizza joint (see above). It was the first look inside at its robotic system that has two robotic arms, up to three convection ovens, 30 warming cabinets and can make 50 pizzas an hour. Hyper didn’t say where or when Hyper would launch, but Hyper Co-Founder and CEO, Udi Shamai is also President of Pizza Hut Israel so… it doesn’t exactly take a pizza genius to guess which restaurant brand will be the first to try it out.
Speaking of co-branding and licensing. The other restaurant-in-a-box news this week came from Mezli, which raised $3 million (hat tip TechCrunch). The fundraise alone was noteworthy, but equally interesting is that Mezli is more open to, well, being open with its robot platform.
When I first interviewed Mezli in March of this year, the company was really focused on building its own Mediterrenean food brand. But as it looks to scale up to 1,000 units, Mezli Co-Founder and CEO, Alex Kolchinski explained to me this week what types of restaurants and other food businesses his startup might partner with.
Dishcraft CEO dishes on new robots and reusable containers
You may know Dishcraft because of its robot dishwasher, or its dishes-as-a-service for restaurants and cafeterias, or maybe even its innovative resuable container program to save the world from drowing in single-use takeout plastics.
But did you know that in addition to cleaning and sanitizing, Dishcraft also tests dishes for allergens like peanuts? (←Smart!)
I didn’t until I interviewed Dishscraft Co-Founder and CEO Linda Pouliot for this week’s OttOmate podcast. Not only did she share that bit about allergen testing, but Pouliot also revealed plans for their expanding reusable container program (new sizes!), and the soaking robot that was added to Dishcraft’s automated lineup.
Reminder! OttOmate’s Pizza Event is November 19th
You should attend! It’s going to be awesome. We’ve got speakers from Papa John’s International, Picnic, Lab2Fab at Middleby, XRobotics, Refraction AI, Wavemaker Labs and PAZZI. Phew!
We’ll be chatting about how pizzerias can prepare for automation, what Papa John’s is looking for from automation startups, real world robot lessons and funding for your pizza startup.
The whole show is just two hours, and it’s online, so you can stream it in your pajamas. What are you waiting for?
(Paid OttOmate subscribers — at any level, monthly or annual — get a free ticket. So become a paid subscriber and attend for free!)
Flippy 2 foresakes burger flipping to focus on frying
Miso Robotics debuted it’s second generation Flippy cooking robot this week. The aptly named Flippy 2 features a smaller design, more end-to-end automation, and a new AutoBin system to quickly dispense lower volume items (like jalapeno poppers). Flippy 2 requires less than one full-time employee to operate, and can fry up 60 baskets an hour.
One thing Flippy 2 isn’t doing, however, is flipping burgers — it’s original purpose.
I spoke with Miso Robotics CEO, Mike Bell this week about this pivot from grilling to frying. From that conversation:
“We hit the pause button a little bit on the grill for Flippy. The functionality’s there, it's great, it works well. But what we found along the way is the problem set for restaurants in the fry station is significantly greater — it's an immense problem.”
Check out my full Q&A with Bell for more on Flippy 2’s new features, the status of the White Castle roll out, and how the supply chain is going to be a pain point for any startup building a food robot.
Bobacino banks $1.44 million in equity crowdfunding
Robo-boba tea startup Bobacino closed its first equity crowdfunding campaign at the end of last week, hauling in $1.44 million from more than 1,200 investors. As a huge fan of Boba Team (Volcano Tea FTW!), I’m super excited to try Bobacino when it comes to market next year.
If you’re a recent OttOmate subscriber (and there are plenty of you, thank you!), you may have missed by Q&A with Bobacino’s Chief Boba Officer, Stacey Kwong in September. Kwong provided super fascinating insights into the ideas around race and food appropriation as well as running a boba business.
In other news..
Listen. There was a lot of food robot news this week. So much that I couldn’t get to it all. While I wasn’t able to write more fully about these stories, they are important to remember as you piece together the broader, emerging robot delivery industry.
Ottonomoy launched robot delivery with Crave in Los Angeles. Ottonomy has been piloting indoor/outdoor delivery across the country. Equally important, however, is that Los Angeles is getting lousy with delivery robots: Ottonomy, Serve, Coco and Kiwibot among them.
Speaking of Kiwibot… that robot delivery service is headed to Dubai. The company announced a partnership with Careem to provide robot delivery of food and groceries to residential areas and college campuses of Dubai. (Gulf News)
Here in the U.S., Nuro, which makes pod-like autonomous low-speed delivery vehicles, announced that it raised another $600 million in funding led by Tiger Global. At the same time, Nuro said it signed a five year strategic partnership with Google Cloud “to support the massive scale and capacity required to run self-driving simulation workloads, machine learning to improve model accuracy, and storage to manage important data from the vehicles.” (press release)
Per Scholas connects employers with tech talent
An OttOmate reader asked me if Per Scholas was an advertiser. They are not. I’m not entirely sure how to classify our relationship, but I like the non-profit’s mission. Per Scholas helps provide tech training and employment access to traditionally underrepresented groups. This industry definitely needs tech talent, so if you’re looking to hire up, check out Per Scholas.
The colder months are here. Warm up with a super soft, super comfy OttOmate hoodie. You will love it.
That’s it for this week.
Stay cool. Have a great summer. Class of ‘90 rulez.