Foodservice robot takes over kitchen prep at Ocado HQ

Robot arm with bowl

The firm behind the world’s first installation of foodservice robotics in a large, high-volume catering environment says its technology will tackle the triple threat of increasingly complex consumer diets, labour shortages and food waste.

Robotics start-up Karakuri has collaborated with facilities management provider Atalian Servest to put its Semblr robot into the HQ of online shopping company Ocado.

It will use advanced robotics technology to prepare fresh, personalised lunches for 4,000 Ocado staff that are returning to the office.

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Semblr pushes the boundaries of automation in commercial catering to give Ocado’s employees unparalleled choice in what goes into their meals.

With 2,700 different combinations of the dishes on offer, customers can specify down to the gram what hot and cold items, proteins, sauces and fresh toppings are included.

This is something that is simply not possible in traditional restaurants and commercial catering, according to Karakuri.

The work to trial Karakuri’s machine in Ocado follows the online supermarket taking a minority stake in the tech company in May 2019.

Barney Wragg, CEO and co-founder of Karakuri, said: “Putting our robot in action in a busy dining room for the first time marks a huge milestone for everybody at Karakuri. We’ve come a long way in two years and our mission remains the same – to develop robots that support the hospitality and catering industry and improve the experience for both hospitality operators and customers.

“What we’ve delivered to Atalian Servest at Ocado is the most advanced food robotics technology in the world. We will be watching with anticipation and excitement how Ocado’s employees enjoy the food.”

Semblr’s installation will provide Karakuri with critical data and learnings that will support future site installations and product developments.

It believes its technology can support restaurants and retail environments in a post-Covid world as the clean, contactless nature of robotics addresses challenges around labour shortages and a more socially distanced way of working.

Stewart McGuire, head of corporate development and strategy at Ocado Group, said: “Ocado and Karakuri share a vision of automating key elements within the food value chain; this real-life installation is an exciting and long-anticipated moment. Karakuri is developing systems that sit at the intersection of food, people and technology, and we are delighted to help make their vision a reality.

“As demonstrated by us opening up our canteen, our investment goes beyond financial support, and this ‘living lab’ gives Karakuri a way for them to perform stress-tests in a production environment. Plus, we get to give our staff a sneak peek at the potential future of food service.”

Karakuri’s Semblr is a robotic solution for high throughput, fast turnaround, completely personalised, portion-controlled, food service that can provide 110 meals per hour.

It uses a range of robotic technologies to handle the largest range of foods, enabling user-selectable portions of each ingredient to be served on plates, bowls or dishes in a way that improves on human service.

Ocado’s workforce will be able to customise and place their orders and pre-orders from their phone.

The robot will individually prepare each meal, selecting from 17 hot or cold ingredients that are uniquely weighed to match the customer order.

Semblr prepares multiple orders at the same time, ensuring it meets the demand of the busiest canteens and restaurants.

Born out of the Founders Factory incubator, Karakuri was founded by Simon Watt and Barney Wragg, two long-time friends and colleagues who originally worked together at ARM in the 90s.

In April 2018, Founders Factory invested in Karakuri and Brent Hoberman joined the board as chairman.

EDITOR’S VIEW: The robots are coming

Tags : KarakuriOcadoroboticstechnology
Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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