Robots haven’t taken over the restaurant world yet, but they’ll be hard to miss at the upcoming National Restaurant Association Show, taking place May 20-23, at McCormick Place in Chicago.
Foodbots feature prominently in this year’s Kitchen Innovation (KI) Awards, presented each year at the event. According to a National Restaurant Association press release, the KI Awards program “recognizes the year’s most forward-thinking and cutting-edge kitchen equipment and product innovations that meaningfully improve foodservice operations.”
“Each year we see innovative products that revolutionize kitchen and foodservice operations, and this year is no different,” Tom Cindric, president of Winsight Exhibitions, said. “These equipment advancements address many of the challenges impacting operations today—including workforce shortages and labor costs—and create a new generation of kitchens that improve operations and safety through increased efficiency, versatility and productivity to help boost the bottom line.”
The KI Award recipients were selected by an independent panel of judges comprised of industry leaders and internationally recognized food facility consultants, multi-unit executives and design experts.
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Award recipients in the food robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) sector include:
Alpha Grill: This cooking robot from Aniai follows the restaurateur’s burger recipe and cleans itself so operators can focus on high-level priorities. It can cook eight patties in less than one minute. The clamshell Alpha Grill raises burger patties into top platens, times cooking, picks up the cooked patties (no flipping required), and delivers the final burgers to a front-mount warming tray. AI and various sensors check the quality of the final product.
Intelligent French Fry Robotic Solution: Atosa says its new system features “the same type of six-axis robotic arm that probably built your car.” Described as a “collaborative co-bot solution,” it works in auto or manual mode, with or without staffers, and includes a refrigerated or frozen hopper/dispenser, robotic arm, fryer battery with filtration, a ventless hood with fire suppression, and a dump station.
Costa Smart Café Marlow 1.2: New from the Coca-Cola Company, the Costa Smart Café is described as “a revolutionary piece of autonomous equipment that provides barista-quality coffee at the touch of a button. Essentially an unmanned coffee shop in a box, it is designed to craft and dispense over 100 hot and iced drinks before any human assistance is needed.”
ConvoSense: Convotherm says its system is “the world’s first AI-powered, fully automated combi oven cooking and baking system. ConvoSense sees what the operator is loading and instantly launches the perfect cooking program to produce it. Adept at mixed loads, food can be loaded all at once or one tray at a time. ConvoSense recognizes the food as it is loaded and launches the correct cooking program for each tray while simultaneously managing the entire cooking cavity for consistent, exceptional results.”
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FryBot: With fully automated technology, including a seven-axis robotic arm, Lab2Fab’s FryBot can fry two separate frozen foods, up to 30 pounds of each. Collaborative technology allows humans and robots to work in the same space while ensuring the employees’ safety. Depending on the food item and programmed cook time, FryBot can reportedly fry up 50-plus baskets per hour with a two-vat (four-basket) system. Lab2Fab, by the way, also has a pizza-making robot called Pizzabot.
PreciTaste: With 2,000+ food AI systems, PreciTaste is an AI kitchen management system that optimizes operations through real-time guidance. “The solution incorporates data augmentation from a proprietary database and machine learning to manage kitchen operations, resulting in increased productivity and profit,” the company said. It’s “highly scalable…[and] provides crew assistance based on demand predictions with the option to add vision sensing for key kitchen tasks, including bulk prep, inventory planning and work-station management.”
Robojo: Zink says its Robojo is a “self-contained coffee business…built around two WMF-5000S+ Super Automatic Espresso machines, a Scotsman nugget ice machine, two latte art printers, a refrigerator and a Kawasaki robotic arm. The equipment is connected to the monitoring system via ethernet cables.” Customers pay for their beverage via a credit card terminal or a propriety app.
The full list of Kitchen Innovation Award recipients can be viewed here.
During the National Restaurant Association Show, all Kitchen Innovation Award recipients will be featured in a dedicated showroom in the South Hall at McCormick Place and highlighted in special programming at the Show.