Restaurant robots are changing the food sector, as eateries and delivery services alike steadily move toward automating repetitive tasks, allowing employees to focus their effort where it’s needed most.
Innovation in the food service industry has come a long way from the Speedee Service System used to streamline 1940s McDonald’s operations. One thing hasn’t changed though: a constant drive toward greater efficiency. That’s where robots come in. They are designed to enhance production and increase output while improving safety.
Check out these restaurant robots that perform a variety of functions throughout the food industry.
14 Examples of Restaurant Robots
Robots for Food Preparation
Location: San Francisco, California
How it’s using robotics for food prep: The hamburger is iconically American, and people are always looking for ways to improve it. California restaurant Creator does so with robot help. The establishment's Rube Goldberg-esque machine handles every step of the burger-making process: grinding beef, frying patties, toasting buns, dispensing condiments and assembling burgers.
Burger prep is only one part of the operation. Creator still employs humans to take orders and staff its restaurant. And some notable Bay Area chefs like Nick Balla (Bar Tartine) and Tu David Phu (Acquerello) have partnered with the eatery to design specialty burgers.
Location: Walla Walla, Washington
How it’s using robotics for food prep: Wilkinson Baking Company is turning the ancient art of bread making into a robot-automated process. Despite its small footprint, the company’s BreadBot does the work of a full bakery. Using a mix of dry ingredients, the machine blends, prepares and cooks the dough. Intended for grocery stores, the BreadBot provides customers with freshly baked bread that’s prepared on site.
Location: Pasadena, California
How it’s using robotics for food prep: Miso Robotics designs robots to automate kitchen operations. For example, the Flippy 2 can be used to make fried food, requiring only that a person place the food into an auto bin so that the robot can use artificial intelligence to recognize the type of food and cook it correctly. The company’s robots have been used by food chains like Chipotle and Buffalo Wild Wings.
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
How it’s using robotics for food prep: Dexai Robotics has developed a robotic sous chef named Albert that can adapt to kitchens straight out of the box. Albert is able to assemble a meal in minutes and can recognize ingredients as well as report when they need to be refilled. For safety, the robot pauses within 4 feet of a person and comes equipped with emergency stop buttons. Users can control Albert from an app, and all of the robots’ actions are logged to ensure accountability in case a mistake is made during food prep.
Location: Seattle, Washington
How it’s using robotics in restaurants: The Picnic Pizza Station automates pizza prep and helps to reduce food waste. It takes about 10 minutes to set up the automated assembly line, which a single employee can use to prepare up to 100 pizzas in an hour. Users are able to customize the machines to add precise, consistent amounts of cheese, sauce and toppings to each pizza.
Robots for Drink Service
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
How it’s using robotics for drink service: Costa Coffee is a chain that uses BaristaBots in airports, hospitals, grocery stores and corporate offices in Texas and California. These automated kiosk-style machines are able to take and fulfill customers’ custom coffee orders. An app is also available both in the Apple App and Google Play stores that customers can use for a completely touchless ordering experience.
Location: Sunnyvale, California
How it’s using robotics for drink service: Blendid’s robotic smoothie-making booth, dubbed “Chef B,” lets customers choose what kind of smoothie they want, then uses a mechanical arm to dispense ingredients, blend them, pour the resulting concoction into a cup and serve it up. Blendid has multiple locations across California.
Location: Seattle, Washington
How it’s using robotics for drink service: Artly’s AI-equipped barista bots, available in Oregon, California and Washington, use a combination of deep learning and computer vision technologies to make coffee orders. They are also able to monitor the quality of each drink and can learn new tricks from human baristas.
Robots for Food Delivery
Location: San Francisco, California
How it’s using robotics for food delivery: Starship Technologies’ network of self-driving delivery robots operate at various locations in the United States, as well as in Germany, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Finland and Estonia. They’re equipped with a combination of computer vision and GPS technology, moving at up to 4 miles per hour to bring customers goods from restaurants and stores. As of November 2022, the company’s roughly 80-pound robots have completed 4 million autonomous deliveries.
Location: Los Angeles, California
How it’s using robotics for food delivery: Serve has begun rolling out the use of its self-driving sidewalk robots in partnership with Uber Technologies. Some UberEats customers in Los Angeles can place orders through the app that will be delivered by Serve’s zero-emissions robots that are supervised by remote pilots. Customers can track their delivery as it approaches and then retrieve it from the robot’s secure cargo compartment.
Location: Berkeley, California
How it’s using robotics for food delivery: Restaurant robotics is about more than just food preparation. Companies also use robots to improve delivery. Kiwibot employs a fleet of food delivery robots to make the transport of food to customers as cheap and efficient as possible. Users can order food through an app and then follow the path of their robotic delivery in real-time. Kiwibot has deployed more than 500 of its adorably expressive robots on 26 campuses across the United States.
Robots for Food Service
Location: Redwood City, California
How it’s using robotics for food service: Bear Robotics’ self-driving Servi robots can be used to run food or drinks, bus tables and greet and seat guests. The machines’ internal weight sensors tell them when orders have been retrieved from their trays, and they have LiDar sensors along with multiple cameras that make them capable of navigating custom floor plans. The company’s partners have included Chili’s, Denny’s, Pepsi, Marriott and Google.
Location: Miami, Florida
How it’s using robotics for food service: Restaurant Brands International is a quick-service (aka fast food) restaurant group that owns the Burger King, Popeyes and Tim Hortons franchise brands. The company has moved toward increasing automation in its physical processes, starting with AI predictive-selling digital menu boards at drive-thru windows that use weather patterns and order history to suggest specific menu items.
Location: Austin, Texas
How it’s using robotics for food service: Richtech Robotics’ products include the Matradee line of delivery robots. They can deliver food and bus tables, while avoiding obstacles as they navigate a food establishment. The standard Matradee robot model has up to 12 hours of battery life and can carry just under 90 pounds.