Operations

Next up for Travis Kalanick: Robotic kitchens

Meet the new Lab37, a subsidiary of CloudKitchens-parent City Storage Systems, which is launching new automated bowl-building technology similar to Sweetgreen, Chipotle and others.
Lab37
Automated restaurant formats are starting to proliferate. |Image: Shutterstock

Another big player is jumping into the automated restaurant arms race.

Travis Kalanick, the notoriously secretive former Uber CEO and, more recently, founder of the CloudKitchens empire, is now reportedly building a bowl-making robot named Bowl Builder, which was first reported by The Spoon.

In a blog post on Sept. 20, Lab37 said it has been testing the technology out of CloudKitchen locations with virtual brand concepts under The Hungry Group, specifically a concept called The Hungry Cowgirl Cocina, which offers dishes like a Slow-Roasted Chicken Bowl and a Barbacoa Beef Bowl. The company is exploring other potential food builds, like burgers, burritos and wings/fried things, the website said.

But Lab37 doesn’t appear to be looking to grow the automated restaurant concepts so much as offering the technology to other restaurant operators looking for robotic systems.

Bowl Builder is similar to automated makeline technology that has debuted at Sweetgreen, which was first launched as Spyce and acquired by the fast-casual chain. Another system created by Hyphen is being tested by Chipotle. And coming to New York City in January is another robotic restaurant concept called Kernel, which is being developed by former Chipotle CEO Steve Ells.

Out of Spain comes Remy Robotics, which has been reportedly testing another robotic system in New York City out of CloudKitchens called Better Days.

Lab37 describes Bowl Builder as the first of many robotic production machines. The system works best for bowls that have “highly dispensible ingredients” and for “delivery intensive businesses.”

But it won’t be available for restaurant operators to adopt until next year, starting in the third quarter, when Lab37 will begin offering production slots.

Other tidbits about Bowl Builder, as described on the website:

  • It can currently make about 80 bowls per hour and has 18 food dispensers and 10 sauce dispensers.
  • It takes up about 100-square feet of floor space, and the top is also a prep surface.
  • The Bowl Builder weighs its portions, “never forgets its hair net,” and takes a photo of every bowl it builds to ensure customers get what they asked for. It places the bowl in a bag—with utensils, if requested—and seals the bag for delivery.
  • The cost of the technology has not yet been revealed, but Lab37 said they hope to save all operators 50% of their total labor at 50% of the cost.

Here’s a video:

 

Lab37 got its start in a warehouse in Pittsburgh as a subsidiary of City Storage Systems (CSS), which is parent to CloudKitchens. This winter, the company plans to launch a test out of a CloudKitchen location in Pittsburgh, offering The Hungry Cowgirl menu and later other cuisines.

According to The Spoon, it will be headed by Eric Meyhofer, who previously ran Uber’s self-driving car unit, but left that company in 2021. On his LinkedIn page, he also describes himself as co-founder of Carnegie Robotics LLC and co-founder of Fourth Computer.

The Spoon also reported that Salted, a Los Angeles-based company with a portfolio of “delivery-first” brands, mostly out of ghost kitchens, is a potential customer.

Lab37 did not immediately respond to requests for more information.

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