White Castle ❤️ Flippy, Tiger ❤️ Hyphen, Sodexo ❤️ Kiwibot, Save Mart ❤️ Starship
Plus our market guide to drone delivery startups, an expeditious podcast and Grabango.
The week started with Valentine’s Day and love was definitely in the air for food robots. In particular, it was a big week for sidewalk and restaurant robots. If you choo-choo-choose me, I’ll tell you all about it.
Restaurants Want Bots
White Castle kicked things off on Tuesday by announcing it was installing Miso Robotics’ Flippy 2 robots in 100 of its locations. Flippy first started working the fry station at a Chicago area White Castle almost two years ago. With this week’s announcement, more than a quarter of White Castle’s 377 locations will be outfitted with robotic fry cook.
That’s obviously good news for Miso Robotics, which decided to forego Flippy’s burger grilling origins in favor of solely working the fry station. As I explain further on the site, it’s also good news for Miso because the company is in the middle of trying to raise $40 million through equity crowdfunding. Between this White Castle expansion and its pilot with Inspire Brands/Buffalo Wild Wings, Miso’s pitch to potential investors just got a lot more compelling.
But wait, to channel my inner Popeil, there’s more!
Hyphen announced that is has raised a $24 million Series A round, led by Tiger Global Management. Perhaps more noteworthy is that Hyphen said it has “maxed out” on pre-orders for its robotic Makeline, with hundreds of robots already reserved.
For those unfamiliar, the concept of the Makeline is pretty genius. It uses robotics to basically double the output of a restaurant makeline. You still have a human scooping ingredients from bins on to plates and bowls on the counter, but underneath there is a robotic system automatically doing the same thing for digital orders. The best part is that it does all this double duty in the same footprint. So restaurants don’t have to re-arrange their kitchen or change their workflow.
Sounds pretty great, right? Want a Makeline for your restaurant or ghost kitchen? Sorry, but you’ll have to wait until 2024. It could be recency bias, but I’m pretty high on Hyphen right now. Read more at the site to find out why.
Hey! We’ve added a ton of new readers over the past few weeks. Welcome and thank you! If you like OttOmate (and I hope you do) — please consider becoming a paid subscriber! It helps ensure that you’ll get all the best food robot coverage for years to come!
(If you come in at the Premium level, you get an OttOmate logo Hoodie!)(Guaranteed to break the ice at parties.)
Sodexo Gets Sweet on Kiwitbot, Starship Takes Off with Lucky California
It wasn’t just restaurant robots having the best. week. evar. Sidewalk delivery robots also got their moment in the sun.
The college robot delivery space which, up to now, has been dominated by Starship, took an interesting turn as Sodexo threw its lot in with Kiwibot. Kiwi announced a $7.5 million Pre-Series A round this week led by Sodexo, a big player in college foodservice. Not only is Sodexo investing in Kiwi, but the two companies are planning to have kiwibots making deliveries on 50 college campuses by the end of this year.
Jump back to the site where I break down how the battle for college dorm delivery dominance has become one between money and connections.
Though it was surely a coincidence, the very next day Starship announced it was expanding its grocery delivery deal with Save Mart. Lucky California shoppers in Pleasanton can now have Starship robots deliver groceries (well, not all of Pleasanton quite yet, but you get the point).
So as Kiwi is cruising onto U.S. colleges, Starship is broadening its grocery delivery to the general public. As I write on the site, robot delivery doesn’t have to be a zero sum (there’s plenty of opportunity), but the sidewalk robot delivery battles will definitely heat up this year.
Live Q&A with NSF is Next Week!
I don’t wanna brag, but this livestreamed Q&A with Orsi Dézsi of NSF International next week is going to be UH-MAY-ZING.
For real. Where else will you get a stellar primer on building machines that are certified safe to work with food AND get to ask questions with the person from NSF? And it’s totally free!
Here are the details
WHAT: Live Q&A with NSF
WHEN: Thursday, February 24th at 8:00 a.m. Pacific (yeah, that’s a little early, but it’s worth it!)
WHERE: Livestreamed on Linkedin
MAPCO + Grabango = Cashierless Checkout-o
Grabango announced this week that its cashierless checkout technology is going into two MAPCO convenience stores in Nashville, Tennessee later this year. For those keeping track, this is now the fourth c-store chain to pilot Grabango’s technology (the others being Circle K, bp brands ampm and Amoco, and Giant Eagle’s GetGo Market).
I spoke to Grabango CEO Will Glaser about the convenience category’s rapid adoption of cashierless checkout, and how that industry has pivoted from curiosity to launching multi-store pilots.
Podcast: Expedite's Kristen Hawley on Restaurant Robots
If you want to understand the role of technology in restaurants, then there is no better person to talk with than Kristen Hawley. In addition to being a freelance journalist who covers tech in restaurants, she is also the founder and writer of the excellent Expedite newsletter.
So as I was bringing the OttOmate podcast back to life, I couldn’t think of a better guest for its return. In today’s discussion we talk about restaurants being at the “healthy curiosity” phase of adoption, why we’re seeing server robots pop up in smaller markets, and why restauranteurs might be interested in getting exo-skeleton type suits for their staff.
Paid subscribers get access to OttOmate podasts first. This will be available to general audiences next week.
1:42 Minutes for Delivery is, uhh, Fast
Listen. I get that these stats about Flytrex’s drone flights in 2021 — provided by Flytrex — is
little more than a PR stunt. But, Flytrex is one of the few drone delivery startups operating in the U.S., so this tid-bit of early adopter insight does have value. Also — 1 minute and 42 seconds is fast. Also, not as many people order snacks-by-drone as I thought there would be.
The OttOmate Market Guide to Drone Delivery Startups
Speaking of drones! We released the OttOmate Guide to Drone Delivery Startups last week. From A&K to Zing, this guide shows you all the major players conducting drone food delivery around the world.
This guide is presented by ARO
ARO is a leader in robotic management, operations, and support. We offer complete robot lifecycle services including, implementation, daily operations, robotic fleet management, remote monitoring, field agents, local account management, as well as preventative and break/fix support to help robotics companies scale across North America. Founded in 1990 and headquartered in Chicago, ARO has over 30 years of experience in managed services and operations. For more information, visit aroptions.com/robotics
For inquiries, contact Dale Walsh - firstname.lastname@example.org 404-915-6854
That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading!
Stay cool. Have a great summer. Class of ‘90 rulez.