Sally the salad-making robot has arrived, and she may be the next big thing that can satisfy your customers’ hunger for food-service automation. The creation of Redwood City, CA-based Chowbotics, Sally is a programmable robot that is about the size of dorm refrigerator. Using proprietary robotics technology, Sally can dispense and accurately measure 21 different healthy ingredients, including romaine, kale, seared chicken breast, Parmesan, California walnuts, cherry tomatoes and Kalamata olives. She mixes and dispenses the ingredients, while maintaining a precise temperature control. The foodie robot can craft 1,000 unique salads, all while the customer watches.
Sally is among a growing list of new consumer and business robots with specific functions. According to BI Intelligence, that segment of the robotics industry is surging. The multibillion-dollar global market for robotics, which has been dominated by industrial and logistics uses, is shifting toward new consumer and business applications, resulting in what may become a $1.5 billion market for consumer and business robots by 2019.
On the Job 24x7
Sally weighs in at 350 lbs. and has a list price of $30,000. Chowbotics also offers a lease option for $500 a month. That size and price point makes her appropriate for industrial kitchens and a variety of settings, including restaurants, airports, gyms, hospitals and other venues that are open 24/7 and have the need for fresh foods around the clock. Chowbotics intends to market Sally to hotels, so business guests who check in late can get fresh food even after the hotel restaurant is closed.
Chowbotics is making two versions of Sally, including one that can used by staff in a kitchen where servers could use Sally and then walk the salads out to customers. It also has an automat version with a menu touchscreen that allows customers to order and customize the salad of their choice, pay via Sally’s built-in credit card reader, and even watch her make the salad.
The Chowbotics’ robot precisely measures each salad ingredient, ensuring that the customer order contains the exact number of calories listed on Sally’s digital menu. Chowbotics CEO and founder Deepak Sekar says that fast food restaurants with Sally serving up salads will attract more health-conscious patrons, as her recipes with their healthy ingredients contain far fewer calories than the typical 400 calorie options available at many quick-serve restaurants and salad bars. Businesses that use Sally can opt for Chowbotics-provided recipes or key their own recipes into the robot. Many of the recipes were created by Chowbotics executive chef Charlie Ayers, who was formerly Google’s original chef and a specialist in making healthy mass lunches in the 10 cafes on the Google campus.
In addition to her measuring skills, Sally offers several other benefits to restaurants. “Sally is the next generation of salad restaurant,” Sekar told the San Francisco Chronicle. He notes that a robot can make salad faster than a human can, and it’s more hygienic to have a machine prepare a salad than to have multiple cooks mixing ingredients or (worse yet) a crowd touching all the ingredients in an open salad bar. The company also notes that for restaurant owners, Sally has advantages over human labor: she is dependable and predictably efficient, requires no health benefits and is always available around the clock, if needed.
Sally requires human hands to prep and load the ingredients that go into its canisters, which are then installed into the robot. She can make 40 salads before refilling. Sekar says that while chopping ingredients by machine “is too complicated right now,” automated chopping functionality is on deck in future versions of the robot.
Dressed Up and Ready to Go
Several pilot customers are using the Chowbotics robot. Sally is mixing up greens at the Campbell, CA-based Italian restaurant Mama Mia’s, and it is in the co-working space Galvanize in San Francisco. Sally also has a job at the corporate cafeteria at H-E-B Grocery Co. in Texas.