Robotic kitchens could be the future of the fast food industry thanks to a new concept that can refrigerate, cook and wash up without any human intervention.
Kale Rogers, Michael Farid, Braden Knight and Luke Schlueter, all students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have developed the world’s first completely automated restaurant and are now looking to take the idea commercial after winning the prestigious Lemelson-MIT undergraduate prize.
The group set to work after discovering that quick-service restaurants spend about 30% of revenue on ingredient costs, compared to about 50% of revenue on labour and other overhead. Consequently, high overhead costs cause quick-service restaurants to compromise on ingredient quality in order to remain competitive.
They came up with a fully integrated solution that cooks full meals from raw ingredients without the need for direct human involvement and came up with the ‘Spyce Kitchen’, which can prepare a meal in less than five minutes.
The team’s invention includes a refrigerator, dishwasher, stovetop and chef, all in one machine, uses an array of sensors to accurately control temperature and quality when cooking and is self-cleaning.
First, a meal is ordered and the ingredients are dispensed from hoppers that sit at the top of a refrigerated portion of the Spyce Kitchen machine. The dispensing mechanism delivers the ingredients into the transport system, which accurately controls ingredient quantity by weight.
The transport system in turn then takes the ingredients to one of four cooking modules. The heated cooking modules cook and mix the ingredients simultaneously, with accurate temperature control. The whole machine will then repeat the process cooking the remaining ingredients.
Once complete, the meal will dispense onto a plate and the pot rotates to another position and washes itself.
The Spyce team believes its invention will revolutionise the fast food industry by operating with extremely low overhead and serving high quality, nutritious meals at fast food prices.
The invention only occupies 20 square feet of space, which allows it to be located in places that a traditional fast food restaurant couldn’t fit.
While the space is significantly smaller, the team has found a Spyce Kitchen is able to produce half of the throughput of a full-sized fast food restaurant.
While designing and building the Spyce Kitchen, the team found that universities and corporate offices were especially interested in having Spyce Kitchens in their buildings because they have large amounts of people, but limited dining resources.
The team has already received interest in piloting the invention in the dining services at multiple schools in the greater Boston area once the Spyce Kitchen receives USDA and FDA approval.