Bear Robotics, which makes the restaurant robot, “Penny,” announced today that it has received a $2 million investment from South Korean food tech company, Woowa Brothers. ZDNet reports that the money is part of Bear’s seed round and comes in the form of convertible bonds. Bear Robotics had previously raised $3.8 million.
Bear created Penny, the bowling pin-shaped restaurant robot runner, which can autonomously shuttle food from the kitchen out to tables and bring dirty dishes back for cleaning.
Woowa runs Baedal Minjok, South Korea’s largest food delivery app. The company has developed its own delivery robot and is reportedly looking to expand its AI and robotics efforts.
Bear Robotics is co-founded and run by ex-Googler John Ha, who used Penny at his restaurant, Kang Nam Tofu House, in Milpitas, CA. Ha told us previously that Penny was borne out of seeing inefficiencies and difficulties that come along with human restaurant workers.
Penny was built for front of house operations (so no burger flipping) and its functionality is currentlypretty limited. While it can navigate between people and tables, it still requires humans to load its table-top surface, transfer the food onto the tables, and place dirty dishes on back onto it. Penny, however, doesn’t tire out, take breaks or call in sick.
Bear plans on renting out Penny’s to restaurants in a labor-as-a-service business model, and had signed up the Bay Area-based Amici’s Pizza chain as a customer.
Robots and food are a hot topic right now. In addition to Flippy, the burger cooking robot, Little Caesars’ has patented its own pizza making robot, Sony and Carnegie Mellon University have teamed up for food + robot-related research, and who knows — maybe even Amazon’s reported robot will have some culinary skill.