Fast food kitchens face robot invasion

Momentum Machines burger robot

A start-up that could transform the fast food industry with a machine capable of producing up to 400 customised burgers an hour has netted $18m (£14m) in funding to bring it one step closer to making its concept commercially viable.

Momentum Machines first hit the headlines five years ago when it unveiled a fully autonomous ‘burger bot’. Now, after successfully completing a venture capitalist finding round, it plans to open a restaurant based around its latest prototype, which has been in development for the past year.

The company is run by tech experts and engineers from some of the top universities in the US and counts the former head of R&D at The Fat Duck among its advisers.

Reports in the US claim McDonald’s has an eye on the robot, which at $35,000 (£27,000) would cost less than a year’s pay for one member of staff.

Experts say it could replace two to three full-time line cooks and save a total of $90,000 (£70,000) a year in training, salaries and overhead costs per store.

“It’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who’s inefficient making $15 an hour bagging French fries,” McDonald’s former CEO Ed Rensi is quoted as saying.

Momentum Machines’ robot system can produce almost 400 burgers an hour, the equivalent of one every 10 seconds.

On its website it says the device makes gourmet burgers from scratch with no human interaction.

“These burgers are fresh-ground and grilled to order and accented by an infinitely personalisable variety of produce, seasonings, and sauces. Serving a burger this great at such affordable prices would be impossible without culinary automation,” it states.

The robot even wraps and bags the burgers before they are given to the customer.

The company also goes onto say: “We’re building an engineering-focused group of analytic and creative individuals. The team consists of roboticists from institutions including Berkeley and Stanford and firms like Tesla and NASA as well as product managers with restaurant experience.”

It is understood that the company will open a restaurant in San Francisco that uses the robot to show how it can work in a live quick-service environment.

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