A year and a half’s worth of global pandemic has had a profound impact on virtually every sector of the workforce. When it comes to future automation, food prep isn’t quite at the top of the list (that distinction likely goes to warehouse fulfillment, for the time being), but it’s certainly up there. And it’s easy to see why the events of 2020 and beyond have left many kitchens looking for alternative sources of labor.
San Francisco-based Chef Robotics today announced that it has raised a combined $7.7 million pre-seed and seed round, with the goal of helping automate certain aspects of food preparation. The list of investors is pretty long on this one (with seed and pre-seed rolled up into one), including Kleiner Perkins, Promus Ventures, Construct, Bloomberg Beta, BOLD Capital Partners, Red and Blue Ventures, Gaingels, Schox VC, Stewart Alsop and Tau Ventures, among others.
The product team includes ex-employees of Cruise, Google, Verb Surgical, Zoox and Strateos. Chef’s team isn’t quite ready to show off its robot just yet (hence generic kitchen stock photo #8952 up top) — not entirely unusual for a robotics company still in the early stages. What it has outlined, thus far, is a robotics and vision system destined to increase production volume and enhance consistency, while removing some food waste from the process. Fast casual restaurants appear to be a key focus for this sort of tech.
The company describes it thusly:
Chef is designed to mimic the flexibility of humans, allowing customers to handle thousands of different kinds of food using minimal hardware changes. Chef does this using artificial intelligence that can learn how to handle more and more ingredients over time and that also improves. This allows customers to do things like change their menu often. Additionally, Chef’s modular architecture allows customers to quickly scale up just as they would by hiring more staff (but unlike humans, Chef always shows up on time and doesn’t need breaks).
More details on the underlying tech soon, no doubt.