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Burger Robot Startup Opens First Restaurant (techcrunch.com)
206 points by beefman 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 308 comments



Technical feasability aside, I really cringed when the founder started talking about how this gives their employees time to do more meaningful things, like reading books.

Just face it - you're automating a job. If your company succeeds, more people will become unemployed. That's not to say you shouldn't do it, but call it what it is and take responsibility.


> I really cringed when the founder started talking about how this gives their employees time to do more meaningful things, like reading books.

To be fair, the whole quote (in the article, not the video) is: “We’re playing around with education programs for the staff. Five percent of the time they’re paid just to read. We’re already doing that. There’s a book budget. We’re paying $16 an hour. As opportunities come up to fix the machine, there’s a path we’re going to offer people as repair or maintenance people to get paid even more.”

That is quite different from "when I make these people redundant, they will have time to read".


> Just face it - you're automating a job. If your company succeeds, more people will become unemployed. That's not to say you shouldn't do it, but call it what it is and take responsibility.

I agree that the founder should be more straightforward. But take responsibility for what? As a business you don't have any moral or legal requirements to employ x people.

Getting rid of this menial jobs will push people to look to do other stuff. It's good for them and for the society. Flipping burgers like a machine all day long is not healthy.


More power to automation. If it can be done it should be, but automation should not be used in a cynical threat to keep wages down. If it can be automated profitably it would have already been done, and when it can be done it will be done.

Everytime there are stories on burgers why do so many feel it is ok to run down people who are working and attempt to debase and dehumanize them. Is it some kind of perverse pleasure in running down others?

Why should a random commentator decide what is worthwhile for other people to do, what people should earn or what is the value of their job. Why is it more worthwhile to write html code, do hft trades in office or peddle surveillance and spyware all your life? How come no one else is running them down.

This is no place for such debased comments on other human beings in civilized discourse and the mods here usually on top of things should consider the impact of perpetuating this kind of gratuitous disparagement on entire groups of people.


>> As a business you don't have any moral or legal requirements to employ x people.

But the founder, Vardakostas, is a person- not a business. A person ccan always consider the morality of the likely outcome of their decisions.


If I build a business that is 100% automated and requires no employees and is wildly profitable, is it immoral of me to not hire people I don't need?


> But take responsibility for what?

Being truthful.


Truthfully, it also seems to have other advantages. Compared to traditional restaurant kitchens ... this looked pretty damn good. Even pretty damn good to work in (I mean compared to [1]). No grease, no dirty hair, no ruined clothes ...

And of course advantages for the restaurant owner, but also a bit for the employees : more space, generally. The whole kitchen seems to be the size of a small car. That's pretty good.

[1] https://bestlifeqatar.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/20171031_1...


Unemployment is really low right now, and burger flipping is just about the least desirable type of work available. This has been said countless times, but it's worth noting that although there are very few blacksmiths or peat cutters today, somehow we are still pretty close to full employment.


Employment stats are very misleading. There are lots of people with full time jobs who can't even afford housing. Sure they have jobs, but they are still in a really bad situation.


That's an excellent point and one people should consider deeply, unemployment in the US is generally measured by % of population claiming unemployment benefits. It says nothing about people moving to retirement benefits, disability benefits, becoming opioid dependent and being hospitalized or jailed, or getting a job that is effectively continuing the cycle of holding them in very near destitution. Folks are right when they say automation isn't really the major problem. It is indeed just the icing on the cake.


It's never been measured like this anywhere, ever. Don't make things up, especially some intuition that purposely makes another party seem foolish when it is actually quite the opposite. Even people who declare themselves as "job-seeking" are considered in the unemployment rate[1]. ------- 1. https://www.bls.gov/cps/cps_htgm.htm

"Each month, highly trained and experienced Census Bureau employees contact the 60,000 eligible sample households and ask about the labor force activities (jobholding and job seeking) or non-labor force status of the members of these households during the survey reference week (usually the week that includes the 12th of the month). These are live interviews conducted either in person or over the phone. "


Don’t “make things up” (omit important information) the other way either. People give up (lose hope) seeking a job and can end up not “unemployed” but jobless. They’re at least caught in the labor force participation rate, but grouped in with retirees and children and other people who don’t conceivably need jobs.


In the USA, unemployed and abled are forced to be "job seeking" whether they give up hope or not to continue receiving benefits.


You're right, this report serves as an input to the total calculation.: https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf - and my point should simply have been made made directly about this input (original thoughts around this data point remain) and not the calculation as a whole. My bad.


No it doesn't. BLS acknowledges and discredits this misconception. This data is not relevant to your claims, instead it shows unemployment insurance claims reducing over 2017-2018.


It's still relevant, though, as a rough measure of employee leverage vs employer leverage. Periods with low unemployment tend to see rising wages and benefits, high unemployment, stagnant or lowering.


Isn't Labour Force Participation Rate a better indicator? Plenty of people opt-out of the job market by going on e.g. disability benefits, getting financial support from family and/or working extra "on the black" (without any trace for tax authorities).


It provides no more accurate of a view IMO, as it lumps together both groups of (a) people who don’t have jobs and need them and (b) people who don’t have jobs and don’t need them. I prefer looking at that figure more than “unemployment” rate, but it overcorrects on the pessimistic side. Maybe that’s why some of us like it.


Of employee leverage (and hence wage growth)? I don't think so, because those employees who opt out aren't competing for jobs with those other employees. I'm not an economist, though.

It might be a better indicator of "how well is the economy serving the needs of the people", depending on what you value.


I am not commenting on the well-being of people working in fast food. Just on the availability of work. Whether such individuals can afford housing is totally beside the point of my comment.


Unemployment numbers also aren’t low because the economy is producing tons of new jobs; notice the record numbers of homeless on the streets? It’s the labor participation rate. People are only counted towards unemployment stats while they are actively seeking employment; after awhile they give up and drop out of the labor force completely.

Of course much of that drop is also demographics; the baby boomers are starting to retire en masse.

Still, the illusion of job abundance does not hold.


> Unemployment numbers also aren’t low because the economy is producing tons of new jobs

In fact the unemployment rate is low because the economy has produced an extraordinarily vast number of jobs. In May alone the US economy nearly produced a million new full-time jobs (solidly contracting the part-time count). The full-time job count is at an all-time record high. The US economy has produced 14 million full-time jobs in just the last six years. [1] And the median full-time income in the US is about $50,000, among the highest on earth.

> notice the record numbers of homeless on the streets?

The US homeless rate per capita has plunged dramatically and is at an all-time record low. [2] You're entirely fabricating your claims, both about jobs and homelessness.

The total homeless count has declined by roughly 27% in just 13 years. From ~760,000 in 2005, to less than 550,000 for 2018. The US added about 10% to its population over that time simultaneously.

How is that possible? Everyone knows the US sucks and has no safety net or support systems. Except, that's a lie. The US welfare state is now more generous than either the Canadian or Australian welfare states. [3]

[1] https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS12500000

[2] https://endhomelessness.org/homelessness-in-america/homeless...

[3] https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-05-16/the-u-s-s...


He may live in the bay area, where homeless has definitely increased, and the dynamic of jobs not paying enough to make rent is a real dynamic.


Don't bother, for some, no matter what is true they'd prefer to live with some adverse abstraction to overcome; it provides unity, purpose, and a sense of importance.


I'm a boomer at 64 and will work at least 3 more years. I have friends my age that are retiring and ones that are working. I don't even know what "retire en masse" means.


And I'm highlighting how that type of argument contributes to the misunderstanding that job availability and high employment rates are a good thing just by themselves. What good is for people to dedicate their lives to shitty jobs (which are the only ones they can get), just so they can scrape by and live on the streets?


The answer to that’s isn’t more shitty jobs though. It’s adjustments to our system of capital distribution and ultimately what the minimum standards of living we are prepared to accept is as a society.


You are right about shitty jobs not being the solution.

About the last part of your statement though: society has already implicitly accepted the crappy minimum living standards (at least in the US) that it's willing to accept. That doesn't make it right for the people stuck having to live according to that minimum.


If you're giving the majority of your time (that you are awake) to someone else and can't afford housing you're not "working", you're being enslaved.

Like c'mon. Working for less than a livable wage is just called making America worse. It would be much more productive to kill yourself and reduce the leverage employers have over the proletariat.


I doubt a burger robot is replacing very many jobs that pay much above minimum wage.


.... those jobs may not seem very valuable to you, but they are valuable to the people doing them, and possibly more broadly, to society.


[flagged]


Automating jobs is a good thing. It's not sharing the profits of increased productivity with everybody that's the problem. I'm looking forward to the day when developers are automated.


My initial (learned?) reaction about automation is also that it's a good thing. But when analyzing it, automation only provides very temporary gains. Even if those gains were distributed evenly, people in the end would not necessarily be better off.

Pretty much almost all (time) gains from automation get immediately filled with non-automated tasks instead of giving you endless free time.

Otherwise at this point in time in history no one would need to work. But we keep coming up with more stuff to do and fill up our time.


This is only because higher purchasing power drives people to consume more instead of working less. I find today one could live off very few hours of work.


Keeping around meaningless jobs isn't a method of "caring about people". With unemployment numbers so slow, finding another menial job shouldn't be that difficult.

The "think of the employees" argument only works when there isn't an employee-friendly market.


> Keeping around meaningless jobs isn't a method of "caring about people".

Actually it is. People need to be occupied/busy. It's such a big need that keeping meaningless jobs around is also a huge political tool used for thousands of years (there was an article that made the front page of HN a few days ago exactly about this topic, pretty fascinating). I would agree it might not be the best way of caring about people though.

In any case, my comment referred to the sentiment of the previous poster's comment, which seems to be similar to yours...

> With unemployment numbers so slow, finding another menial job shouldn't be that difficult.

These people are just a statistic to you and you think because "the numbers add up", they'll be fine.

> The "think of the employees" argument only works when there isn't an employee-friendly market.

It's hardly an employee-friendly market when thousands of people with a full time job can't afford housing because their jobs don't pay enough, but they also can't afford to loose their jobs. Seems more like slavery than a job market.


Hey! Sometime I think about taking a 6 months leave to go flip burgers a the local gourmet burger place. Blacksmithing would be a close second. As for peat I wouldn't do it, because I do not see the point. Peats are very important ecosystems that we're wasting. Golf-quality front-yard aren't useful or important. And people should compost.


That is a very privileged point of view. You want to think the grass is at least more interesting on the other side, but I've done a stint in fast food. It is hard, smelly, nasty, poorly compensated labor. It is not at all like home cooking, which I love. I've never worked harder than the summer I did at Wendy's in high school, and I've never been paid less.

As for blacksmithing, yeah, the artisanship side of that would be cool. However, considering you have no skill, you'd probably spend six months making horse shoes. If that seems like fun to you, well, you still probably couldn't get that work, because there's just not very much demand for blacksmiths these days. :)


They are more likely to spend 6 months shovelling coal into a fire and sweeping the floor at a blacksmiths.

Blacksmiths don't make horseshoes either, that's a farrier's job (who still buy them off the shelf and finish them by hand). Being a farrier is also not an easy job, take a 3 or 4 apprenticeship to become one. There seems to be this viewpoint I see a lot on Hacker News that blue collar jobs are unskilled jobs. Most skilled trades require a 3 or 4 year apprenticeship, you can't just learn how to be a fitter and turner, or a carpenter, or a blacksmith/farrier in a couple of weekends. It's this kind of arrogant attitude that causes the tradies to have no respect for the book-learned engineers straight out of university that think because they have a degree they know how to build a road.


> That is a very privileged point of view. What's privileged about it? He said he wanted to do something different, and these were things that interested him.

> ...I've done a stint in fast food. He specifically mentioned a gourmet burger place.

> However, considering you have no skill, you'd probably spend six months making horse shoes. If you're doing blacksmithing for a living, most likely you're a farrier. Demand for custom ironwork is very low.


Oddly enough...

The only farrier I know isn't a blacksmith. Actually I don't remember what her full time job is.

And the only person I've ever known who did custom ironwork was a software tester.

Go figure!


> Sometime I think about taking a 6 months leave to go flip burgers a the local gourmet burger place

If working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week sounds like fun to you, then I'd totally recommend it.

You'd probably spend most of your day cutting potatoes and washing dishes though, rather than actually cooking burgers. And even if you did get to cooking, you'd be making the same half a dozen menu items day in, day out. You won't have any creative control, you're a production line worker.


> burger flipping is just about the least desirable type of work available.

It's not even close, which is why it is easy to keep burger flipping jobs find without high wages even when unemployment is relatively low.

> This has been said countless times, but it's worth noting that although there are very few blacksmiths or peat cutters today, somehow we are still pretty close to full employment.

Because “full employment” is a decreasing-over-time share of the population that is actually working (and an even smaller decreasing share actually self-sufficient from work, as a large portion of the working population is dependent on public aid.)

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is a problem that people point to “near full employment” with advancing automation as an excuse to argue against the continued advance of social support structures necessary to make the declining share of the population working (and also the declining share self-sufficient from work) both nearly “full employment” and anywhere close to tolerate conditions.


>full employment

We have folks living in tent cities.

12.8% is "on disability"

Yeah we're at full employment as long as you consider U6 rather than the old standard of U5.


How many of those people in tent cities would even take a job if you offered them one? How many are drug addicted or mentally ill to the point of being unemployable?

Society shouldn't pretend these people don't exist but they're rightfully a different class of unemployed.


A lot of those people are actually employed but can't afford housing. This is a problem with no good solution in sight so far and it's going to get exacerbated with job automation.


Were we not making these same vapid arguments in the 1800s regarding automation and machines? The Luddites were an entire movement opposed to machines for exactly the same reasons, yet living standards are vastly higher than in those times — even the poor have air conditioners, TV and refrigerators. If we would have listened to the Luddites, we’d still be riding horses and using outhouses with a life expectancy of 45.


Sure, maybe 200 years from now everyone in the world "on average" might be doing better. That still doesn't mean people whose jobs get automated today wont suffer, or that the Luddites didn't suffer when their jobs got taken away back in the day.

In any case, very few technologies (relative to everything that's created) actually make living standards better, mostly just things in healthcare. Almost everything else is pretty much a rats race fueled by business and profit, not by intentions of improving people's lives.


Seems like this comment struck a cord.

To make it a bit clearer...

Currently, humanity as a whole has the resources (materials, technology, etc), to provide good housing, education, food and healthcare for everyone on this planet. However, everyday we choose not to do that and do whatever else it is we do instead.

This is just an observation, not a moral judgement on anyone in particular. By the way, I'm personally not doing anything to change the current state of affairs, so I can't really point any fingers.

Hopefully the situation will change at some point.


Those folks don't deserve to have meaningful work, if they want it?

Which percentage of society should be permanently alienated from ownership and engagement, and who decides?


I think the point was that people who currently choose not to work are not harmed by automation of low-barrier-to-entry jobs that they are already choosing not to take.

And it's a valid point! If people really are choosing not to take jobs that are readily available, then automating those jobs is a net benefit.

Now, we should not ignore the fact that this is stated as a hypothetical! Are there a mass of unemployed who are choosing not to work? And would all of the people who lose their jobs due to burger flipping automation be able to find new jobs or be happy with no job?

Those seem like the more relevant questions.


Fortunately, disability applications are declining soundly.

June, 2018: "Disability Applications Plunge as the Economy Strengthens"

"The number of Americans seeking Social Security disability benefits is plunging, a startling reversal of a decades-old trend that threatened the program’s solvency. It is the latest evidence of a stronger economy pulling people back into the job market or preventing workers from being sidelined in the first place."

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/19/business/economy/social-s...


>Yeah we're at full employment as long as you consider U6 rather than the old standard of U5.

U5 is at 4.6%... https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t15.htm

It is also, by definition, lower than U6.


Anyone with a pulse can have a job flipping burgers TODAY if they want it. Same with various other categories of work (farm labor, etc.). The folks living in tent cities who are not flipping burgers are choosing not to do that work. A reasonable choice, I'd say, depending on your circumstances, but it's a choice.


I remember thinking this until McDonald's turned me down for a job. True story.


More than 37% of the country does not have a job according to labor participation rate. The unemployment rate has been massaged and manipulated to the point where you need to stop citing it as a serious measurement of anything other than the scope to which otherwise intelligent people can be deluded.


You're spouting a conspiracy theory. U6 unemployment is at historic lows and has at no point diverged from the trend in U3.

Unless you plan on conscripting children, students, the disabled, stay-at-home parents, and the elderly into jobs (like Steve King[0]), we're at the long run full employment rate.

[0] https://twitter.com/stevekingia/status/967477703011119104


The problem is underemployment, not unemployment. People work but can't get enough money from their work—even when they are working 2-3 jobs to try to support their family.


What I said is backed up by facts. How is it a conspiracy? The labor participation rate is 62.x. That means that 37% of the US is not employed. Fact, not a conspiracy.

The unemployment rate has been manipulated for various reasons and in various ways for years by politicians whos reputation is directly linked to the number. Again, fact, not a conspiracy.


Your statement is worthless without context. The US has never had more than a 68% labor participation rate. To say that 37% of the US is unemployed, without qualifying that that percentage includes anyone over 16 (students, retirees, stay at home parents - in short massive numbers of people that are not seeking work) is to be deceptive.

A reasonable statement would note that the labor participation rate was at about 59% from 1950 to 1965, rose over several decades and peaked around 67% in the 90s as women entered the workforce in droves, fell 1% in the 00s and 3% following the recession. It would further be worth noting that the recent fall could be a result of a variety of factors - poor wage growth (might change the calculus of stay-at-home parenting), increasing numbers of young men that prefer to live with their parents and absorb themselves in entertainment rather than "getting ahead" (possibly also affected by the prior wage issue), or baby boomers retiring in increasing numbers, causing a bump in people moving out of the work force.

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CIVPART


>How is it a conspiracy?

>The unemployment rate has been massaged and manipulated to the point where you need to stop citing it as a serious measurement of anything other than the scope to which otherwise intelligent people can be deluded.

>The unemployment rate has been manipulated for various reasons and in various ways for years by politicians whos reputation is directly linked to the number.

Uh huh.

In any case, you might want to take a look at the 25-54 LFP. It currently sits at 82%, the same as the rate during the 2000s and two points shy of the all-time high during the height of the dot-com bubble. Prior to 1986 it had never reached this level.

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/LNS11300060


"Uh huh"? It would be a conspiracy to say that the unemployment rate does not have basically arbitrary rules built into it to discount people who are actually looking for work.


Which "people who are actually looking for work" are not included in U6 unemployment?


Elderly people are included in the ~35% you are talking about and most are not "actually looking for work".


There are a variety of alternative unemployment measures besides the headline rate and the are uses for which way of them is more appropriate than the headline rate, but using the LFPP as if it were (1 - unemployment) is silly, unless your ideal is that everyone should be working at wage labor from 16 to death.


It's not my area, but this seems like a pretty good article about issues facing the restaurant industry:

"Some operators even say Uber is taking its toll. 'We have seen a number of our line cooks leave and say that they can make more money driving for Uber,' says Stacy Jed, co-owner of San Francisco’s Bluestem Brasserie. 'And if you think about it, the barrier to entry for Uber is much lower. All you have to do is know how to drive a car. And they can make more money and work less.'"

https://medium.com/@foodrepublic/how-can-restaurants-fix-the...


> All you have to do is know how to drive a car

Don't you need to own a decent car too?


I think what he calls "5% time" (24 min of an 8-hour day) is what most burger places call "break time" (15 min every 4 hours)


Break time is mandated, no? I assumed he was referring to time at work outside of break time, because otherwise it would be completely pointless to say, if not illegal to dictate what employees do during break time.


My company works in the restaurant industry and the common theme for restaurants v2 is providing better hospitality, which is only feasible with high prices (think fine dining) or by freeing up production costs to be spent on hospitality, which is exactly what this does.

Imagine an employee at the burger place offering event planning services, not just catering. Or knowing that you have family coming in town next weekend for a baseball game and the gamw gets delayed and you're starving after the game, and the employee texts you "Hey, saw your game got delayed, hungry? I can have some burgers sent to the house for the whole family!"

It is automating a job, but I prefer to word it as reallocating resources to improve the experience.


That sounds really awful, and I don't want McDonalds to have visibility into whether my kid's little league game had a rain delay...


Or, let's just do some specialization of labor, the entrepreneur's job is not to preserve obsolete jobs, there are other institutions where this question should be addressed to.


more people will be relocated to higher value jobs

FTFY


I mean, the value of the job goes down when it is automated, so the phrasing can be a little tricky to navigate, but yes.


If I were looking to invest in one of those, the biggest questions I'd have are around reliability, cleaning routines, and maintenance. For example I could pay minimum wage for someone to cut veggies, or pay significantly more for an engineer to repair the unit because it isn't dispensing tomato right.

Their demo unit is very fun, and adds to the gimmick, but like most industrial equipment ease of access is more important than appearances. I'd hate to have to take apart what they demoed for routine cleaning.

And while it is laudable that they're taking the savings and using them on better ingredients, that only lasts until a competitor appears who is going to just lower the price (e.g. "50c burgers here!").


I have many of the same questions too. In industrial robots one of the most important numbers is mean time between failures(MTBF). If the MBTF is too low, that is the robot breakdown or otherwise fails, you spend more on fixing the robot or its mistakes than the cost of the robot itself, the cost of programming it, and the value the robot provides. Cleaning is a huge issue. If they don't clean things properly and someone gets food poisoning this could kill their company and perhaps even the automation of fast food. And if cleaning is time consuming enough it could greatly increase operating costs.

I'm skeptical that this machine adds enough value to justify its costs for the aforementioned reasons, but also because of the decreased flexibility. Other fast food restaurants can introduce new dishes and flavors easily, but if they want to do the same they may need to modify the entire machine. For example, adding two patties instead of one, using differently shaped buns or meat, wraps instead of burgers.


Low MTBF is why I've tossed all my household robots (Roomba vacs, Roomba floor mopper, and about half a dozen different cat litter robots). They save time T when they work, but they create new problems that require 2T to fix. It's a net loss.


I have a better idea than cleaning: build a machine that builds these so quickly and cheaply that you can throw them away every night when you're done.


You're getting downvoted and you used what I think is a "sarchasm" tag but this isn't a terrible suggestion. Lots of industries use disposable parts for sanitation reasons. Many of the instruments used for medicine and dentistry are now disposable. Food workers wear disposable gloves and food comes in disposable packaging. It's not unreasonable to think that they might use disposable parts for everything that touches food.


How does that blend with the garbage problem the world seems to be having since China stopped importing trash? Is it economical enough to recycle the used machines?


Disposable, used-once items are not automatically impossible to recycle or decompose.


You’re right that they’re not impossible to recycle or decompose. I asked about the economics of getting that done..There’s already a huge problem now that the Chinese are no longer buying trash to recycle cheaply. If the cost of recycling is factored in, do these once-use products remain affordable and profitable? They’re not made from paper, but from plastics and metals, which take specialized recycling.


The Diamond Age


Burgerworld by Delos?


Speaking of tomatoes -- all the tomatoes in that tube were beautfully colored, exactly the same shape and size. (And beefsteak variety, so nearly tasteless. That's a different issue.)

In the real world, tomatoes come graded. You pay a lot more if you want them all exactly the same size. They need to be washed, and frequently have woody stems that need to be excised. I didn't see that happening automatically.

And onions don't come pre-peeled in restaurant quantities. The pickle tube is going to jam. The condiments might signal you when they're out, but the nozzles are going to need a good cleaning.

I wonder if they're planning on going Juicero and selling their franchisees preloaded tubes.


And tomatoes can be difficult to slice; too ripe, and they splatter, making catsup in that nice, clear tube. Too tough and they bend the blades of your mandoline. Onions are even worse. They seem to have realized that lettuce won't be easy to cut (so they use shredded) but that will wilt/brown much faster.


When you buy a can of diced tomatoes, how do you think were they diced? Do you think it was done manually? I'm pretty sure slicing and dicing vegetables is a problem that has been solved at industrial scale a long time ago.


Industrial canned food production is a completely different scale compared to an automated restaurant. We're talking sorting, cutting, and packing machines each the size of the average McDonalds restaurant. Dont think its realistic to fit all of that in a drive through burger location


Anyone who's ever been to a Brooklyn deli can tell you none of those are that difficult: just run them through the deli slicer.


Its not automation if a human is standing there feeding the slicer and carrying it to wherever it needs to go. The hard part in automation is almost always material handling, not cutting.


Of all the things you could have taken from my comment, you came up with that? You seriously thought I was advocating having a human run laps around the machine with a deli slicer?

Clearly, the observation was, just make the cutting mechanism work like a deli slicer, as opposed to a knife or whatever else the OP had in mind.


Do you know what a knife is? A blade with a handle. Do you know what a deli slicer is? A blade with a bigger, heavier, mechanized handle.

Clearly the observation is that these robots are blades that dont need handles because they do everything a handle-using human does without requiring an actual handle. See what I'm getting at? You're telling them they should use a better handle when handles have nothing to do with the actual subject at hand.

The hard part is picking up the vegetables and moving them without damaging them, filtering out the product that went bad after QC at the farm, measuring how much force to apply to both ends to keep it from falling apart, keeping an eye on gunk and cleaning it before it becomes a mechanical problem or food safety hazard, and on and on. You know, the things that you need humans for, not deli slicers.

That's what the OP had in mind. Not what kind of kitchen utensil to use.


Um, do you know what a deli slicer is? Hint: they don't typically have handles.

Seriously, go back and read the original post. It's all about how hard it is to cut various vegetables. Not the stuff you mentioned. Think you better calibrate, son.


In addition to maintenance, don't forget about upgrades, newer versions and installation/maintenance of those.

Early on in the food making robot game it will move fast, new versions will come out all the time. Noone wants to eat at the place with last year's robots.

Early on, competing will be intense if the new versions also cut costs heavily. No restaurant that has gone automation will be able to survive if using too far outdated robots in the beginning at least, until it is refined after many iterations.

Humans are self-cleaning and maintain on their own time. Robots will be like any other kitchen equipment, probably very nasty unless there are humans there to clean them on the regular, good policies or really good self-cleaning technology.

Eventually there will be robot upgrading and maintaining third party services, but at that point are you really getting a difference across restaurants other than ingredients? Sometimes people like chefs cooking because it is unique and harder to replicate. We already get lots of food made by robots, they are frozen foods that aren't all that great compared to food made on the spot by real people.


Coat them in something anti-bacterial like silver? It's pretty cheap, and apparently safe for human consumption?


This is a somewhat common technique used in, for example, beverage dispensers. Food-grade anti-microbial coatings are available and apparently quite useful.


There are concerns that silver ingestion would upset the balance of intestinal bacteria that we depend on for digestion.


Honestly, I hope he gets competitors. How great would fast food be if it was all made exactly the same way every time, with high quality ingredients?


Compared with 50 years ago, it already is.


No reason to stop improving though


As long as we can see the ingredients it seems like a great idea, better than what is on offer currently. My suspicion is that the machines otherwise would look like the inside of McFlurry machines rather soon.


If I were looking to invest, I wouldn't give a crap about reliability, cleaning, and maintenance. I'd want to see his business plan, and how he thinks he's going to make money when the highest amount of revenue this thing can produce is $72/hour, when it runs flawlessly.


5 minutes residence time in the machine per burger, not one burger per 5 minutes output.


Looks to me that you can have more than 1 burger going at once.

Outside of places like San Francisco the few dozen square feet per machine isn't going to be a big deal.


$72/hour * 160hours/month * 12months/year = $138240/year

On top of that it can produce multiple burgers at the same. I assume the revenue per machine is potentially 5x of that (or more) which is $691200 per year.

Making money seems like the lowest priority item on the very long list of potential problems with this machine.

Cleaning and restocking? Those are still unsolved and might even be impossible. Making more money merely requires "revision 2: now 30% more efficient!" or just building more than one machine.


If your restaurant grosses $138K/year, you're out of business pretty fast.


True, but you don't have the same expenses. Hopefully less direct human labor hours, able to run 24x7 at times when human costs could be higher, way less real estate and more viable locations than a restaurant, as well as just lower utility bills.

Of course there are other expenses such as maintenance, deployment, development and upgrades. But those are the things this company is likely trying to optimize.


You can have more than one running at the same time?


Then you have 2x the capital costs, plus less room for seating etc.


Stack them vertically to save space?


There is more than one restaurant in the world.


Yeah, "America is a big place" covers a lot of ground for this company.

I'm not sure that gives them much, though -- restaurants are pretty capital-intensive, and on those economics the marginal savings of not having burger-flippers doesn't add up to a lot of advantage. Maybe it would be better to sell your machines, to become "the Coca-Cola of burgers" rather than another McDonald's.

Established players don't want to develop these machines in-house, but if you provide clearly better value they can and they will catch up. They'd probably rather buy the technology, though.


Providing people with different options isn't bad.

If you want a more expensive burger, then buy the more expensive one. Of you want the cheaper one then buy that.

It's not "laudable". It is responding to the market and providing a different product.


What a pity that responding to the market isn’t leading humanity anywhere good.


Because the market by itself is just the law of the jungle, it has no moral compass. The market has to be encouraged towards a good outcome for humanity.


And now we just need someone to tell us what that good outcome is we should be moving toward.


And yet, so many people want to leave most things up to "the market".


We ought to realize that we ARE the market.


For varying degrees of "the market". Most people represent an insignificant part of it.


Yes, I think you are right, the race to the bottom is inevitable unfortunately...


That's still allows you to segment the market. I like McDonald's but can't get it where I live because the majority of the people prefer higher priced fare. The McDonald's couldn't compete with a mid tier burger joint down the street and got replaced by an upscale Korean restaurant.

If it manages to actually lower operating costs then it will lower prices in all the segments but it won't just get rid of segments


Well McDo has been introducing electronic kiosks to order, while reducing the number of cashier stands.


But there hasn't been a race to the bottom in food. There are restaurants at huge ranges of price points.


And I imagine two huge components of the pricing floor for restaurants are property cost/rent and labour. Potatoes are dirt cheap and oil can be reused a few times, yet to buy basic fries near me at a non-franchised fast food place would be $5+. Doesn't feel like much of a race to the bottom.


Do you pay an engineer to come out and fix your car or copy machine? It's not like paid employees are any cleaner... That's why the ice cream machines are "down" half the time


> It's not like paid employees are any cleaner

I wasn't calling engineers less clean. I was saying paying for repairs and maintenance from experts might offset the cost savings (relative to minimum wage, minimum qualified, employees) in the long run.

Self-checkout machines seem to work because the technology is simple enough to be reliable enough. In this case you have moving parts, sensors, and food particles on everything.


We don't have quite enough detail, but I wonder how much in the way of sensors it would need if the ingredients were standardized - if every burger weighs 300g, cook them for 130sec per side, etc.


Hard to do that with vegetables as per here.


[flagged]


Do fast food burger places use meat thermometers? I suppose better kitchens are more likely to, but then they also allow you to order 'rare' or 'well-done' (which sounds like it is v2.0 for the bot).


Anecdotal, but I know quite a few chefs and none of them would ever use a meat thermometer, it would be an insult to their well-honed ability to feel the cook.


The benefit of it all being transparent and visible to customers is, as any dirt will be visible, they can sell or franchise the machines and the buyers can't skimp on cleaning.


Bacteria isn't always particularly visible, and that's the part you have to worry about. I'm curious how they keep the meat and other ingredients chilled in those transparent tubes, especially if sunlight is anywhere near them.


To be honest, this machine looks mostly like a gimmick. I wonder how version optimized for speed (but still from fresh ingridients) would look like.


It’s distressing how much life is starting to resemble a Harry Harrison novel. All were missing are porcuswine served at these establishments and well hit the high notes.


Any year now, a stainless steel rat will be born. :D


I like to thing I am a burger pro, but I know I am not an automation pro. A burger shouldn't take more than 10 minutes from cooking to being served. This thing looks very slow. Is that the current state of this sort of line automation?


It takes 5 minutes.


I'm a little disheartened that nearly everyone so far has immediately jumped to finding flaws in this stories and ones like it.

I get it, there is a long history of such robots failing economically.

However, automating food assembly could free a huge number of people from menial restaurant work.

Perhaps we would see an explosion of food culture and personalization that simply doesn't exist when you have several fast food chains operating tens of thousands of stores worldwide and the cost of opening up a unique restaurant is greater than many people's lifetime earnings.

I hope this problem is solved one day in my lifetime, and that we all benefit from lower food assembly costs and increased dietary options.


"Free" them? They need that work in order to survive, mostly. They were "free" before having that menial job and that freedom didn't seem to help turn them into software engineers or nurses before...


Which is why we should immediately un-mechanize mines and bring back hurriers and trappers!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurrying

https://thoroglove.wordpress.com/2015/03/12/trappers-hurrier...

Simply put: if a job is so repetitive that it can be automated out of existence, it's in the interest of humanity overall that it should be.


Seems like it's in the interests of the owners to automate, not in the interests of those who work jobs that will be automated.


No, it seems like it's in everyone's interest. Or would you really prefer to live in the conditions people lived in 200 years ago?


To be honest, everyone would have been better off if coal extraction remained a manual process.


> Simply put: if a job is so repetitive that it can be automated out of existence, it's in the interest of humanity overall that it should be.

Quite a different way of framing it than your original comment. Here you tout how it's good for "humanity" in general. Before you were touting how this is good for the people being put out of work.


Um, the original comment wasn't mine.


Flipping burgers every day for the rest of your life is a sad waste of human potential. We as a society can do better. This robot is one step, other steps are involved like Universal Basic Income or actually paying content creators.


I made fast food for years before I became a software engineer.


thanks for your survivorship bias


We may find ourselves wondering where experienced people are going to come from in future when the jobs that previously gave them the ability to independently support themselves while studying disappear.


It's a common problem. I know of a lot of situations where businesses are fucked when boomer millwrights and mechanics retire, because they never bothered to keep an apprentice around. So much institutional knowledge going out the door, with no replacement


That's a US problem though, lots of countries provide free education.


Is it really your understanding that fast food workers never or rarely go on to do anything else?


Perhaps if enough people become unemployed, they could force some changes in society. Right now they are busy flipping burgers and cleaning toilets.


I want to see a high-end robot restaurant that's run as a work of art rather than a race-to-the-bottom. Think Benihana, but run by KUKA robots. You'd sit facing a kitchen behind a glass wall and watch the robots fling things around dangerously -- knives, cutting boards, frying pans, etc.

You'd order a complicated dish and watch in amazement as the robots prepare it in front of you.


Heh, unrelated but my wife and I decided to visit the "Robot Restaurant" in Shinjuku Tokyo expecting exactly this. Turns out it's a glorified strip club with lasers.


I'm really curious how something like that would be received. Is Benihana entertaining to watch because of the tricks themselves or because it's impressive that a human has learned to perform the tricks consistently?


If I ever had the chance to go see a robot doing Benihana tricks it would definitely be worth going at least once. Perhaps I have more appreciation for the degree of engineering that would go into something like that though.


Maybe the bot can get the shrimp in my mouth.


Now you’re talking.


I think what this company is doing is great. Unlike all the other automated food startups, this one focuses on COST. I would definitely buy a $6 burger with great ingredients.

The founder cares about people's wellbeing, and seems to have a mission. He's been grinding this out for 8 years. It doesn't sound like the other automation food startups out there.


I don't really understand the appeal of these restaurants. While living in Boston I went to the MIT "automated" wock-esque' restaurants a few times. It wasn't even that, "automated" per-se outside of the wock-cooking. Humans still handled a majority of meal prep, stocking machines, and dealing with payment problems.

IMO I'd rather have spent less money at the neighboring Chipotle for better food.


I recently left the Bay Area to live in a major city in another state, and now that it's a little easier to see the tech forest through the trees, I see that for now, very few people want a lot of these types services outside of usual tech centric hubs.

It's like in the Kurt Vonnegut book Player Piano: there are certain services where people enjoy the human touch; I think food service is one of those.


I'd prefer less human touch on my food.


Honestly, when it comes to slices of pizza or a burger (fast food in general), I couldn't care less about the human touch, and I've been to some of the best pizzeria's / burger joints in NY/LA/SF.

I might care my first time going, but anytime after that, I just care about getting my food and eating it.


Certainly automation of food service was a problem solved in the early 1900s for those that wanted fast food and coffees without being asked by someone if they'd like fries or a muffin; just turned out that in most situations it was actually a less successful business model...


Machines don’t put mustard on when you tell it no mustard. Machines don’t give you attitude either. Machines don’t spit on your food or do any number of disgusting things that fast food workers have been known to do.


Machines will never comply with "Can I please have more than the two ketchup packets that management woefully let's you give me?" or "How are you doing?"


Yeah but you can't actually see and hear the people getting paid shit to chop up veggies, so it feels less exploitative

Also-- There's more than one company doing that?? Or just one with several locations


The goal is to make the same product for cheaper.


Everyone is obsessing about the detail when there's already a company that pretty much does this - Subway!

You could pretty much automate the sub construction process since the ingredient prep process is done at an industrial scale and just shipped in bags to each Subway location.


Yeah I'm actually really surprised Subway hasn't at least tested an automated restaurant. Seems like they would be perfectly positioned to do it. They even pre-portion many of their meats to make it even easier.


A typical Subway has a lower staff count than most fast food joints, I think. At most times, when I worked at one, we needed fewer than three heads on the line.


This seems like it would quickly devolve into health hazard without constant maintenance. Idk, at this point, it seems like it would be a headache just to have this running smoothly. It's cool and all and yeah maybe robots will make our food in the future, but this machine is not something that I'm especially stoked about.

As a person who cooks, 50% of the time is spent cleaning up. I can see gunk, pieces of stuff, residue messing with the machine. A normal person notices and cleans each bit as they go, whereas a machine like this (unless engineered to clean itself) will be cleaned periodically (most likely after business hours). So my point is, I feel like food made by humans is still cleaner and safer.

Also what happens when something needs to be cleaned or replaced mid-lunch? You shut down the machine and open it up... the restaurant loses $. In a normal kitchen, you wipe things up, wash a knife, or grab a new one and keep going.


Agreed. Watching the video, I don't see a single surface that looks like it meets the NSF code for handling.

There's a reason most kitchens are full of stainless steel with smooth edges and nothing that can capture soil.

There's wood in this appliance.


The wood appears largely limited to non-food-contact surfaces.

Wood is often used in food prep; cutting boards, butcher blocks, stirrers, rollers and scoops/paddles are often made of wood. Wood surfaces have been shown to have anti-microbial properties that make them well suited for the use:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cutting_board#Wood


Just imagine how fast this could spread food borne illnesses. Unless the meat grinder is cleaned between each burger, that's a huge potential risk. Just a little e. coli on the outside of the beef, and each blade will be contaminated.

And as anyone who's worked fast food knows, the higher tech the food prep device, the more delicate it is. Cooking beef results in grease, which gets everywhere. You can put gaskets, physical barriers etc etc, and grease particles will coat everything. Then things will break down.

Add in robotic mandolines for the tomatos/onions, the necessary refrigeration of all the components and you've got something that won't be robust, reliable, or efficient.

Then there's tamper resistance. This thing will need to be hermetically sealed to keep people from doing the usual fsckery that happens in kiosks etc.

And the economics looks "challenging." From the article, it looks like it stocks 30 buns. 30 burgers at $6 is $180 in revenue before someone needs to restock it. And restock the beef. And make sure the artisanal beef deliveries are handled properly. Sounds like a prep cook... Then you'll need cashiers, and people to clean tables, and restrooms, and all the other accoutrements of restaurants.

Yeah, it looks cool, and people do like to see their food cooked. The novelty will attract people at first. Then the lines will deter them. Restaurants are all about volume. And at $6 a burger, you'll need to crank them out fast.


Surely that whole center compartment with the veggies and condiments is refrigerated.


Do you not think they may have addressed the obvious issues a layman thinks up.


Worked in food service for 16 years, started my own restaurant. So not a layman... (yes I know this is a logical fallacy; appeal to authority. So what)

But to answer your question, no. I don't think they've addressed these obvious issues.


Why the hell wouldn’t they have addressed those issues? It’s so fundamental that they’d be stupid to not have thought of what you’ve described. These people probably know a thing or two about what they are doing — this isn’t some kid’s science project. Other people have worked in restaurants too — I am pretty sure your concerns aren’t novel.


I knew a lot of people whose parents worked in the industry. Their kids would "help" out a bit (the parents hoped to pass on the restaurant) by working the front of the house, or doing some bookkeeping etc. This gave them a sense of the business without learning the hard side of it. The really long hours, the fear of going broke, the hassles of employing people. The endless cleaning, stocking, menu planning, working with vendors. The million details that all have to be done for the business to run smoothly.

Then the parents decide to step away from the business. Their children take over the business, and want to put their stamp on it. Modernize it. They update the menu; redo the decor. Aim for a better clientele. Try to remove the difficult parts of the business with technology. And the business fails. Because they didn't understand the myriad small decisions that lead to its initial success.

Restaurants are incredibly hard to start and run successfully. That's why franchises are so popular, they take some of the guesswork out, at the expense of giving up control and individuality.

At the end of the day, people want tasty food, at a reasonable price, served quickly, and in a decent atmosphere. If this robot can provide that, it'll succeed. I don't see that it can satisfy the second and third criteria. If they get that down, and the cost of the robot isn't higher than a staffed and equipped kitchen they'll succeed.


Looking at this apparatus, no.


Who says a Creator restaurant needs to only have one of these robots per restaurant? If you have two, then you can run them active-passive, with the cold one being cleaned by an employee. Switch the machines as necessary. It ups the square footage of the restaurant, somewhat, but not by that much.


> It might not be the best burger I’ve had in my life, but it’s certainly the best at that price. A lot of that comes from the savings on labor and kitchen space afforded by a robot cook. “We spend more on our ingredients than any other burger restaurant.”

That's a great elevator pitch. Fluff-free and obvious ex post facto.


Lots of fluff in that. A well run small kitchen can run rings around something this size. It'll still need walk-ins to store the produce and beef, plus room for buns (which take up a crap ton of space).

Other than the beef, all the other components are standard for a decent restaurant. Fresh baked buns aren't anything special, nor is custom grind meat. And bragging about spending more on your food cost is dumb. It shows that he has no real idea about the day to day of keeping a restaurant financially afloat. He'll find out when the VC money runs out.


Your comment shows that you've never worked in fast food.


Almost two decades in the business.


Well then. Good to see you're doing the work you're qualified for.


Well this was done in the 60s allready.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=FmXLqImT1wE&t=545s

It was most likely cracy expensive just as these news machines are compared to a ordinary restaurant grade kitchen and you still need people going around unstucking things that get stuck.

Bringing industrial processes into street food seems ... unpractical.


On top of that the article says it takes around a full five minutes from ordering to your burger being ready, and all those ingredients in tubes look pre-prepped to some extent. Plus it can't be easy to clean.

That one from the 60s actually looks more impressive, wow!


LOL. 5 minutes a burger, at $6/per. So this thing can sell $72 worth of burgers per hour. At that rate and price, there's no way this will ever be profitable. Even with add on sales of artisanal, hand shaved potato chips with bespoke cream soda bumping the cost up to $10 a customer, this is DOA. Interesting technology, but as a business, DOA.

Edit; I missed that he's paying his employees $16/hour (good for him). So if he has 2 employees fulltime, he's got $32/hour + payroll taxes/unemployment insurance etc to earn before he can pay off the R&D for this, his rent, his food cost, his utilities, his advertising, and then have an ROI for his investors.

And he has "experience" and a family in the business! Why they didn't talk him out of this is beyond me.


5 minutes to make a burger from start to finish isn't the same as making 12 burgers per hour - the machine can probably prepare multiple burgers at a time (just speculation from the video, of course).


It’s not clear how many can be in the pipeline.


Interestingly, to me at least, that machine from the 1960s seems better constructed than the machine in this article.


It seems apparent the Creator machine was designed with form over function in mind, to be seen and photographed and to visually communicate the concept of "automated food assembly" while looking aesthetically appealing.


...and likely easier to maintain/modify/extend too, since everything will be electromechanical and not controlled by a black-box computer.


Actually, exactly the opposite is more likely. All else being equal, the electromechanical assemblies are more likely to fail and are harder to change than the computer.


I think what's kind of interesting is if this actually makes it easier to start a restaurant. Assuming at some point, some food robot maker steps up and starts selling the robot itself to independent restauranteurs, instead of selling hamburgers to end consumers, do these robots put the power back into the hands of the small business/restaurant owner?

I have to imagine a big complication in starting an independent restaurant is the overhead of hiring/managing/supporting employees (i.e. wait staff, cooks, dishwashers, etc.). A large employee base probably requires a large franchise with economies of scale to distribute the cost of centralized HR over many restaurants.

Without that overhead, entrepreneurial restauranteurs can focus on differentiating the food, the location(s) of the restaurant and the ambiance.


I think getting the location right has always been the biggest obstacle to being a successful restaurant. And there's only so much you can change the menu and "ambience" when you're supplying self-service burgers.

Plus the article does hint the robo-restaurant still has employees to manage customers, clean, load the machine and presumably sort out issues with it on a not-infrequent basis...


Restaurants fail because of 1) poor location, 2) undercapitalization 3) poor QSC (quality/service/cleanliness).


I kinda see what you’re saying, but I think for the economics to work at scale (another person mentioned location) then the device should be small enough to fit in a food truck or a street vendor stand.

Once you have the size down to where you just need one person at a time operating it, I bet the big fast food companies will swarm all over the opportunity to create tens of thousands of micro-franchises.

Why drive for Uber when you could set up a mini McDonalds wherever the health department lets you get away with it?


Yeah kind like a super duper high end vending machine at locations where there might be a person that normally is tasked with doing other stuff could do minimal burger robot maintenance (i.e. refill, clean at the end of the day, etc.). Like at a gas station, corner mom and pop grocery store, wework office lobby, etc.

Japanese Vending Machine Unboxing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8Z80J3jOao


In what world is the power not already in the hands of the restaurant owner?


I'm not very impressed with this. It automates some steps, but they need to take this to the next level, where everything is prepared in a compact, self-cleaning machine. I know people love the art of cooking and there's the question of jobs, but honestly, I hate that my food is created in these chaotic, dirty kitchens. People get tired, apathetic, etc, and the consistency really suffers. How many times have you had an amazing meal only to be completely disappointed the next time.


Food, laundry and house cleaning: Things that have not kept pace with technological advancements.

I really hope they are successful. The second order effects of this automation, especially for a busy family like ours are hours of saved time, that can be spent with the children.


Personally I think we'll see these tasks automated after we automate surgery. The value added accomplishing these tasks is low, the cost of robots is high, and the difficulty of a robot doing them is high. It is difficult for robots to manipulate things autonomously, doubly so for flexible objects, and all these tasks require manipulation of flexible objects. Indeed the reason why Creator's robot dispenses burgers in two halves might be that they do not have the manipulation capability to do so. Maneuvering a flexible bun on to a flexible stack of meat and vegetables without damaging the bun or spilling ingredients is very hard. Surgery also involves unstructured inputs and manipulation of flexible objects and manipulation also involves the cutting and sewing of said objects among other things. This makes surgery just as difficult as these tasks, but the value added is much greater. We can now get away with selling a few very expensive robots rather than a large amount of moderately priced ones.


Cleaning the laundry is essentially solved. Folding what's been cleaned is where the gap remains.


Dryers are so energetically wasteful though, and the advantage to line drying can be low (barring high humidity climate or lack of space). There should be a better solution.


Or wrinkle free clothes


This is solved by folding. Or hanging up your clothes.


Agreed! And perhaps very difficult to automate.


There have seen a few prototype solutions on the web but they all were extremely slow ... on the order of 8 hours to fold a load of laundry.


House cleaning is getting pieces mostly solved. I've used a Roomba and now a neato for a few years and the only real improvement I'd want is for the container to get automatically emptied into a larger can so I only have to empty it weekly/monthly


Robotic fast food is basically inevitable. It's the same exact process, rarely do menus really change. Burger actually looks pretty dang good, and for $6? Heck yes.


In-n-out double-double is $3.45, and they don’t use frozen or prepackaged patties. Automation isn’t doing much for consumers here.


The one thing these burgers got on in-n-out is the freshly-ground beef trump card.


I would be interested to see some blind taste test data to determine if a majority of people can distinguish a burger made with beef that was ground 1 day before cooking vs. 1 minute before cooking.


I think very few people will be able to tell the difference.

However, IMHO, the source of the beef can trump all that. I used to buy a year's worth of beef from a local farmer all at once. Even after a year in the freezer, a burger made from his grass-fed beef tasted better than one made from meat bought from the grocery the same day. When you start out with high quality meat, it takes a long time before the flavor degrades.

OTOH, "regular" store bought ground beef tastes nasty after being frozen for a few months.


I haven't seen such a chart, but I don't know of any burger restaurant that grinds a la minute - not at any price point.


That's a moot point if you can't tell the difference or if the one that was pre-ground ends up tasting better in a blind taste test. I agree, however, that the freshly ground one should taste better.


My point is that even high end restaurants haven't found it worthwhile to grind immediately before cooking, so it's probably a pretty minor difference


Probably because it's labor intensive, something an automated machine can handle just fine.


You seriously can't taste the difference between pasture-raised beef and the grade D swill that junk food pushers like In-n-out peddle?


The biggest factor is in fresh vs frozen, and in N out is on the correct side of that divide. I'd be interested in a blind comparison between burgers made with high and low end pieces of beef, but it'd be very difficult to eliminate the confounding variables. Getting fat percentage equal would be tough.


To your point about high end and low end pieces of beef, steaks are usually priced by the tenderness of the beef, which tends to have an inverse relationship with flavor (of course, there are other factors as well, and some people just prefer a mild-tasting cut).

As you might have inferred by now, good burgers are typically made from cuts like brisket and chuck that are tough, inexpensive, and high in flavor. Using high-end steaks for burgers is simply a waste, doubly so for well-marbled ones.

The fat percentage would not be difficult. Any good butcher would probably be happy to help you set such a comparison up. That is, if they don't warn you that it's a waste to use that T-bone on a burger first.


I'm interested in using the same cuts of meat from different grades of beef. The higher degree of marbling in higher-end beef will make it difficult to get the same amount of fat.


In N Out uses factory-farmed, garbage-fed, antibiotic-saturated beef from cows who have no room to move and stand in their own shit all day. I can tell the difference between that kind of stuff and a good healthy grass-fed cow by smell alone. Seriously, I wonder if you have ever even had healthy beef.


Interesting. How did you come to the conclusion that you can tell the difference just by smell? Can you do that after it's been cooked? It's easy to see certain differences in uncooked, whole cuts of beef, but I'm impressed that you can smell the difference.


Why would they use "prepackaged" patties, when they come in by the literal pallet? In-n-out is disgusting, by the way.


$6 is a lot for a fast food burger. I can get a really good burger at dozens of places for less and isn't made by a machine.


> I can get a really good burger at dozens of places for less

This place is in San Francisco. Where are these "dozens of places" for a really good burger <$6?


Super duper has a 4 oz burger that’s 5.75, and is widely acclaimed.


I really like Super Duper.

But where are the "dozens" of places?


well there you go, proving my point. So not only is the buyer $6 I have to go all the way to San Francisco to get it. I will pass on that.


Even though this is a fast food, its more customizable, more of a "Counter" burger IMHO.


I mean a Wendy's double is $5, $3 is just crazy cheap.


It looks like a high quality burger made fast.


5 minutes isn't fast when there's 20 people in line ahead of you.


Presumably, the restaurant will be able to make more than one burger at the same time, just like other restaurants.

The point is that it's faster than a burger at a specialty burger restaurant, like Red Robin.


Unless they speed up the machine (possible with future versions) or add multiple machines (which increases the required retail space as well as capital expenditures), they're limited by the robot's 5 min throughput. Serially cooking is no way to run a restaurant.

A grill at Red Robin operates in parallel and can easily beat this thing at throughput.


> they're limited by the robot's 5 min throughput

5 minutes is latency. The article says nothing about throughput, but the video shows multiple burgers pipelined on the machine's conveyors.


I hope the beef's better than the crap at Red Robin!


I think it would make a lot of sense to do this for food that wouldn't be cost effective today due to preparation costs. Open a restaurant that serves food no one else does because it would be too labor intensive.


From a tech perspective, I think it's a good thing to step towards automation for low-quality burgers, especially in chain restaurants where a recipe has been modified to ensure that the flavour is consistent across the country/world.

What I'd like to see more from this kind of startup is a desire to ensure that anyone that loses a job due to their product has the opportunity for retraining. Sure, it won't be great for profits, but if we're heading towards a time where low-paying jobs are to be automated then I'd love to see a trend start where people who will lose their jobs to automation can opt to move into management or train towards an entry-level job in the engineering required to run these tools.

What I really don't want is some smug SV type spouting a load of bullshit about how automation makes peoples jobs easier. It only makes them easier by relieving them of their duties.


I agree with your point that it would be great if proverbial disruption would come with more ideas of how the people in jobs potentially eliminated could get jobs elsewhere. Moving into management or engineering though may be out of the question for many of the current employees in those jobs, as they (by and large) may not have chosen/ended up in those jobs if they were qualified and suitable for management/engineering. The maintenance and potentially manufacturing may be more likely transitioning paths, what do you think?


Definitely, as long as they have the first opportunity to move into these jobs. I suppose the benefit of management is that it can apply outside of their line of work, but general manufacturing can too.

The key would be to ensure that anyone that is to lose their job in the future through it being automated by innovative tech be given the opportunity to retrain for a better job. This kind of enforcement means that the job market isn't swamped by mass redundancy, and a consistent time period of retraining for people to re-enter that job market.


Speaking from the point of view of a professional brewer, cleaning and sanitizing that mechanized butcher/line cook would be a nightmare.


I think these kinds of machines could potentially be mainstream someday, at least in fast food, and I see a lot of potential in both cost-savings and food safety improvements.

One thing that struck me as humorous though is the founder's comparison to self-driving cars (from Bloomberg's article): “What you’re watching is a technological feat. Self-driving cars need a lot of mileage before they become reliable. You’re seeing something similar here”

Not to dismiss the challenges with automating burgers, but its pretty straightforward compared to self-driving tech - there's basically no unknowns!


>> Not to dismiss the challenges with automating burgers, but its pretty straightforward compared to self-driving tech - there's basically no unknowns!

I always assume things are more complicated than they appear on the surface, so this is a surprise. You sound like you've explored this topic thoroughly. What is involved in having a robot produce a hamburger (not just the patty, of course)?


Process automation (a field I've been involved in for around 20 years) is vastly easier because the environment doesn't change by much. You can pretty much say "move this thing over here, verify that you moved it over there, add this chemical, and mix, verify that the chemical was added and then mixed" and be pretty confident that it will work in all likely scenarios.

Self-driving cars, OTOH, have to work with nice smooth roads, or potholed monstrosities, or ice & snow, deer jumping out right in front of the car, or idiots tailgating you at 70 mph while you're trying to maintain distance from the car in front of you. Their environment is always changing, and not generally in a predictable fashion.


I’m not saying it’s easy- there’s probably a reason no one’s done it yet. But the comparison seems a little off. There’s no decades long darpa research grants required, and probably very few phds. There’s no predicting what other humans will do, there are no lives at stake (other than food safety precautions). The amount of capital alone that’s been invested in self driving tech (and it’s still not good enough) compared to the amount invested in burger tech makes pretty clear how hard one problem may be.

This is basically a precision automated assembly line, and to be honest plenty of things just as complicated as burgers have been assembled automatically.


OP is referring to the likelihood that a blizzard blows through the prep kitchen as opposed to the likelihood of a hard rainstorm on the 101 during the morning commute. Self-driving cars have to reliably cope with a wider range of uncertainties than a robot cooking burgers in a carefully controlled (by comparison) environment.

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