Happy New Year! For real, I hope it’s a great one for you!
Despite much of this year being hot garbage, 2021 was when I launched OttOmate, so it will forever hold a special place in my heart. To everyone who has helped me along this journey — thank you! I sincerely hope you have a fantastic next year.
Whether you are building robots or buying them, my resolution for 2022 is to make OttOmate a bigger, better, more valuable resource for you. (If you have any suggestions on that front — drop me a line!)
This holiday week newsletter is pretty short, and I’ll be taking the next couple of days off to wind down the year before we all hit the ground running on Monday. 2022 is going to be a big year for food robots, so strap in, get ready, and if you haven’t upgraded to a paid OttOmate subscription yet, may I gently suggest/nudge you to do so now*? There’s lots of great stuff ahead.
*BONUS: You can count is a 2021 business expense!
Consider the UL mark a business enabler, not a cost
Over the past few weeks, OttOmate has been running a regular series on getting NSF Certification. Spurred by the success of that series, I wanted to expand and include helpful information about other types of certifications food automation startups need. So I reached out to UL to do a quick Q&A primer on their services.
If NSF ensures that your robot safely works with food, UL makes sure your machine itself is safe to operate (i.e. it won’t blow up). I spoke with folks from UL about how to work with that organization, what the process is like and the importance of sourcing your components properly.
Check out the full story, but here’s a quick snippet from Ibrahim Jilani, Director and Global Industry Leader at UL:
So the best way to think about [UL certification] for the startups as they're raising capital, as they're looking at their venture capitalists or other types of forms of funding, they should be putting that as part of their business enabler. If they get the UL certification, they have a lot more markets that they can offer their product to. That is a big deal for any investor or manufacturer that not only do you finish your product, but you're not going to have a road bump when you put products on the market — that all of a sudden you can't sell it because somebody like the workplace safety inspector, health official, electrical inspector, or some other stakeholders have no evidence or track record of safety. Even some of the associations for elderly or for children, they're going to start looking at: well wait a minute, was that robot designed with the elderly and/or children in mind?
Tweaking Gartner's Hype Cycle for food robots
Remember Gartner’s Hype Cycle? It’s been around forever, charting the ups and downs startups can face when their new technology meets actual business.
Given some recent (and recurring) dust ups over pizza robots and server robots in Denny’s and Chili’s, I thought it was appropriate to make a small tweak to Gartner’s chart (see above).
Somewhere in between the Technology Trigger and the Peak of Inflated Expectations, food automation startups should also expect the Viral Freakout. This will be some kind of Tik Tok video or Reddit thread expressing outrage over robot X taking jobs away from people and turning fine dining into nothing but soulless ones and zeroes.
As I explain after the jump, the people making and commenting on these videos aren’t entirely wrong, and startups and restaurants need to prepare for this backlash more proactively. Just assume that some kind of video will appear after you launch your pilot — and be sure to have a response plan already in place.
Podcast: Full Audio from OttOmate's Recent Airport Event
Are/were you stranded at an airport this Omicroliday season? If you had a late night flight delay or cancellation, you might have been wishing for a hot ramen or pizza vending machine, since the food court was closed.
Food robots and automation promise to revolutionize the travel experience by offering high-quality food around the clock, no workers needed. (Well, unless you’re the CEO of Cafe X and a canceled flight has you refilling your coffee robot at 3 in the morning.)(This actually happened.) That’s why more airports like Seattle Airport, JFK, LAX and Cincinnati’s CVG are looking to add more food automation services like robot baristas, delivery robots and smart vending machines.
OttOmate recently held an event all about food robots and airports. It features fireside chats with:
Amanda Tsung, COO of Yo-Kai Express
Henry Hu, Co-Founder and CEO of Cafe X
Sam Cho, Commissioner, Seattle Airport
Krishna Motukuri, Co-Founder and CEO of Zippin
Ritukar Vijay, Co-Founder and CEO of Ottonomy
April Cho, Co-Founder and CEO of Crave
Deglin Kenealy, Co-Founder and CEO of Basil Street
You can check out a teaser of the event in the video pasted above. Because this podcast is an event, it’s available to paid OttOmate subscribers (another reason to become one!).
That’s it for this week (and this year). Thanks for reading.
Stay cool. Have a great summer. Class of ‘90 rulez.