Itsu’s kitchens braced for robot revolution

Itsu maki and nigiri sushi robots

Healthy fast food brand Itsu has unveiled a new ‘Store of the Future’ concept which utilises the latest robot technology.

Significant changes to its on-site kitchens through the use of robotic equipment are expected to save prep time, reduce food wastage and speed up the time it can serve hot food.

Itsu said it developed the store design in secret during lockdown, with a view to preparing for how foodservice will change following Covid-19.

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The first site with the new template has opened in London’s Great Portland Street, but more locations are due to follow in the UK.

Founder Julian Metcalfe is understood to have been instrumental in the design, which is “leaner and healthier” than any concept it has created before.

One of the main features is the limitation of touchpoints and any unnecessary contact with dishes between staff and customers – which is partly due to the use of sushi robots and digital ordering technology.

Unlike other Itsu stores, the Great Portland Street store is completely digital. It features a single customer collection point and the front-of-house fridge it would normally have in place has been removed to reduce multi handling.

The new order and pay screens use the latest technology with card-only payments, and enabling customers’ orders to be placed in under 40 seconds.

The technology has been developed by Itsu’s in-house IT team and allows orders to be fully customised.

Further developments to future-proof Itsu’s on-site kitchen include the new maki and nigiri sushi robots from Japan, which are designed to guarantee consistency and productivity.

Traditionally, sushi chefs mould nigiri by hand, but itsu’s advanced robot technology removes unnecessary handling, decreases food wastage and increases speed time for production, as one Nigiri robot can make 4,800 pieces in an hour.

Mr Metcalfe said: “l’ll put in whatever it takes to continue Itsu’s success despite the obstacles posed by Covid. Little expense has been spared on this store of the future – it’s top-class stuff which would not look out of place in Kyoto. It’s far more than a business, it’s an absolute crusade. Not since the 50s has fast food caught up with changing tastes and nutrition needs. It’s a start. We will lead and many will follow.”

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Andrew Seymour

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