The Rise of Automation in Commercial Food Service Spaces

Automation has emerged as one of the hottest trends in commercial kitchens, cafeterias, and other food service spaces. The integration of automation technologies aims to streamline processes, reduce labor hours, and increase efficiency. This article explores various examples of automation in commercial food service and highlights the benefits it brings to the industry.

Automated Coffee Kiosks:

A prime example of automation in the food service industry is the emergence of fully automated coffee kiosks. Companies like RoboJo have introduced robotic coffee kiosks that utilize contactless mobile ordering and over 250 drink combinations including lattes, mochas, hot chocolate and americanos, all prepared without any human intervention 23 hours a day, with 1 hour of cleaning and maintenance. We can foresee these kiosks being used in high traffic areas. Large hospital lobbies, university halls, retail/shopping center courtyards, financial building lobbies, and mass transit hubs would be good examples.

Robojo in action:

Countertop Coffee Automation:

More common coffee automation would include the countertop all-in-one coffee/espresso machines like the Concordia Beverage Systems Xpress SuperAutomatic Espresso Machines from Middleby that allow users to prepare their own latte or espresso. These machines feature a touch pad interface, enabling users to select their desired beverage. The automation technology takes care of grinding the beans, adding the appropriate amount of espresso to the cup, and even pumping milk for lattes. This self-contained automated machine eliminates the need for multiple manual steps and delivers a barista-like experience to customers at the touch of finger. These units are perfect for (and are becoming widely used in) convenience store applications and in corporate kitchen and cafeteria spaces.

Concordia Xpress:

Pizza and Fry Bots:

Automation extends beyond beverages to other food items like pizza and fries. Pizza bots are being developed by Middleby to handle the entire pizza-making process. Users input their preferred toppings, and the automated equipment assembles the pizza with the right amount of sauce, cheese, and selected toppings.

Similarly, fry bots automate the process of frying frozen fries. These robots, like the one designed by Atosa, dispense frozen fries through a shoot into a fryer basket. A robotic arm will then transfer the basket to the next available open fryer pot and submerge. Once cooked, the fries are transferred and dumped into a fry station by the robotic arm for packaging by a human operator. These automation technologies enhance consistency, reduce labor requirements, and optimize food preparation processes.

Atosa is being awarded the National Restaurant Association Show’s KITCHEN INNOVATIONS AWARD in 2023 for this robotic solution.

Atosa Intelligent French Fry Robotic Solution :

Robots in Service:

Automation is also making its way into front-of-house operations. Service robots like the Servi robots from Bear Robotics are being used to assist servers in tasks like table busing and food delivery. These robots can navigate the dining area, collect dishes from tables, and transport them to the dish room for cleaning. Additionally, survey robots can transport food from the kitchen expo area to the server tableside, eliminating the need for servers to leave the dining area frequently. While these robots are not necessarily intended to replace human interaction, they enhance server efficiency and allow them to focus on customer service. Additionally, there is a patrol mode that can be utilized for serving hors d’oeuvres for event catering applications. Rapids actually has employed a Servi Robot to assist in our Marion Headquarters showroom space.

Companies like Richtech Robotics that do beverage service end to end are making cool robots that can go up and down elevators to deliver. We see this being incredibly useful in hospital, healthcare, and senior living facilities.

Servi Robots :

Other Labor-Reducing Tech

Outside of robotics, there are many many ways automation and technology is making its way into our new energy and labor-saving foodservice world.

Electric Kitchens:

A notable trend in commercial food service is the shift towards electric kitchens. This transition is driven by the regulation of gas usage in certain areas, prompting businesses to adopt electric alternatives. New technologies such as induction cooktops and electric combi ovens are being embraced for their energy efficiency and cost-saving benefits. By reducing reliance on gas, electric kitchens offer increased flexibility and sustainability.

Advancements in Dishroom Efficiency:

Automation is also transforming the dishroom environment. Innovations like Hobart’s automatic soil removal capacity, and trough systems equipped with water jets make dish cleaning more efficient. These technologies enable dishes with heavy soil to be cleaned thoroughly without extensive manual scraping. Additionally, improved spray rinse arms from T&S with pull-action mechanisms reduce strain and arm fatigue on dishroom staff, enhancing their comfort and productivity.

Simplifying Installation with Ventless Equipment:

The introduction of ventless equipment is revolutionizing commercial kitchen setups, particularly in challenging locations. The Evo Event Griddle is a ventless griddle that incorporates fire suppression technology, making it suitable for retrofitting in spaces with ventilation limitations or historic buildings. This advancement provides greater flexibility in equipment placement, simplifying installation, and compliance with safety regulations.

Automatic Soil Removal :

Ventless Griddle :

The Benefits of Automation:

The integration of automation technologies in commercial food service spaces offers several advantages. By reducing labor hours and streamlining processes, businesses can lower overhead costs over time. Staffing becomes more versatile, allowing employees to focus on customer service and enhancing the overall dining experience. Furthermore, automation technology ensures consistency and efficiency in food preparation, minimizing waiting times for customers.

From fully automated coffee kiosks to survey robots and electric kitchens, these advancements are transforming various aspects of food service operations. By staying informed about the latest technologies and solutions, Rapids can help you optimize your operations and achieve long-term cost savings while delivering exceptional service to your customers.

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Rapids Contract serves the United States with locations in Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri!

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Get in touch with one of our experts and let us know how we can help with any of your foodservice needs.

Talk to one of our experts right away and get immediate assistance. We are open Mon - Fri, 8am - 5pm CST.