AI in the kitchen: from the hamburger turner to the French pizzeria managed by robots

Automation in the world of fast food is certainly a growing sector, driven in the last year by the need to reduce contact due to a pandemic, but also by the lack of workers. MCDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts, Subway, are among the chains that have admitted to being in trouble, especially in the United States, where recent state aid has made strenuous and underpaid jobs less attractive to which so far many had adapted in order to survive. Relatively cheaper and completely contactless artificial intelligences are becoming more and more popular with big chains. One of the most famous is Flippy, which, as the name implies, has the task of turning (flip) the burgers on the grill and preparing fries and other dishes that require frying. All quite dirty and sometimes even risky tasks due to hot oil. With an analytical platform that helps define cooking precisely and a direct link to the cash register to cut the time between ordering and preparation, the creature from California-based Miso Robotics is already used in chains such as CaliBurger and White Castle. Flippy costs 30 thousand dollars, but it can also be hired at a monthly cost of 1500 dollars, maintenance included, as if it were an extra employee. Less on a large scale we remember the robotic bartenders designed by the Turin-based Makr Shakr, as well as the Cecilia automated cocktail station. , equipped with a screen to interact with the digital bar tender that mixes drinks in 30 seconds but also knows how to explain the items on the menu. And then there’s Sally, made by Chowbotics, who makes salads by mixing up to eight different fresh ingredients and makes it easier for fast food, small chains, and both corporate and school canteens to add a healthy side dish to their menu. For ice cream, frozen yogurt and coffee there is even less hype: what the battle is playing on lately is not so much the ability to have automatic machines, but the possibility of using quality ingredients bypassing industrial semi-finished products. The question is a little more controversial if we talk about pizza, a dish in which the human element, the hand of the pizza maker, his ability to roll out the dough and distribute the ingredients seem an essential element. an attraction. A new pizzeria of the Pazzi chain has just opened in Paris, whose staff is made up entirely of robots, who follow every stage of preparation. They take the orders, process the payments, and then take care of the cooking, from the preparation of the dough to the seasoning to the cooking, up to the plate and the service. The recipes were entrusted to the pizza chef Thierry Graffagnino, who provided his advice in particular for the dough which, he explains, “is the most delicate part, in continuous evolution and cannot be frozen”. The promised result is a level pizza, with quality dough and ingredients chosen at the rate of 80 pieces per hour. Enough to worry Seattle’s rival Picnic Pizza System, a more fast-food-style pizza assembly line, which knows how to churn out 100 every hour, and which just recently announced that it has raised another $ 4 million in funding after a first round in May of 16 million.

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