Brooklyn Dumpling Shop, a tech-forward take on the automat concept, has signed a franchise deal to grow worldwide.
The partnership with franchise developer Fransmart could extend the brand to 1,000 North American locations and “25 mass gathering areas” around the world, said Fransmart CEO Dan Rowe in a statement. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The restaurant has yet to open a location, but has been generating buzz for months about its “zero human interaction” experience. Customers order via phone or in-store kiosk, receive a notification when their dumplings are ready, and pick up their meal from temperature-controlled cubbies accessed by scanning a code on their phone.
The kitchen will operate using technology from Miso Robotics, maker of automated fry cook Flippy.
“Miso is executing the full kitchen operation, which will be available in the third quarter 2021. Until then we will be using countertop portable versions in Q1 of 2021,” said Dumpling Shop co-founder Stratis Morfogen in an email.
The menu features 32 dumpling varieties along with spring rolls, beverages and desserts. A “dumpling lab” in the front window will show the dumpling-making process. The first unit will open in Manhattan next month.
“This is the right concept at the right time—high volume, small footprint, tech-forward, fully co-packed menu built for speed, accuracy and incredible taste,” Rowe said in a statement. “The contactless format is the solution to the biggest problem the restaurant industry is currently facing.”
Though the concept was created before the pandemic with a focus on reducing labor costs, Morfogen recognizes its ability to meet consumer demand for less human interaction in restaurants.
“All the stars are aligned for [the business plan] I wrote in 2019,” he said in an interview with Restaurant Business this summer. “This is the perfect business model for the times.”
The original automats that appeared in the U.S. in the early 1900s were precursors to today’s fast-food restaurants. Customers at the cafeteria-style eateries purchased food from vending machines that required no human contact. On top of being fast and cheap, they offered a more hygienic experience amid health crises that included the 1918 influenza pandemic.
Recent attempts to revive the model have stumbled. Eatsa, a bowl chain with self-ordering kiosks and a cubby system, shut down in 2017, but is now licensing its technology to chains such as Wow Bao.
“We believe we’ve created the Tesla of automats, all controlled from your smartphone,” said Morfogen in a statement. “I’m excited to show the world our revolutionary new QSR from the 100% contactless drive-thru, to our guests’ relationship with our Automat.”