One of the things I miss most during this pandemic is work travel. There is so much great innovation happening in food tech around the world right now, and I can only read about or watch video of it.
Case in point, I’d love to hop over to Bangalore, India, where Mukunda Foods has been developing an array of devices to automate restaurant cooking since its founding in 2012. Among Mukunda’s food robots is the Dosamatic dosa maker, the Doughbot roti maker, and an automatic Biryani maker. The company has also developed a smart fryer, a steam microwave and an induction cooker to make bowl foods.
Dibyananda brahma, Vice President of Growth at Mukunda Foods told me during a call last week that his company already has machines installed in more than 2,000 locations.
Here in the U.S., one of the reasons restaurants are adopting automation is because of labor issues. Back before the pandemic, it wasn’t uncommon for a QSR to have more than 100 percent churn in its workforce. I asked brahma what is driving automation in India, and he said that access to labor isn’t as much a problem as finding workers with the right skills.
Because Mukunda Foods’ machines automate so much of the work in making food, there isn’t a need for as much skill in making dosas or biryanis. According to a case study provided by Mukunda Foods, traditionally, biryanis require 2 skilled cooks and and 90 minutes to make. Mukunda says its automation can reduce that to 1 operator (per shift) and just 60 minutes to prepare biryani.
Like everywhere else, brahma said that the COVID pandemic has spurred inbound interest from restaurants. As noted, Mukunda touts its ability to create more food with fewer people, which reduces the amount of human-to-human contact in the restaurant and provides more space in the kitchen for social distancing.
Robots also have general benefits outside of pandemic-related issues. Machines can operate all day without taking a break, they can reduce supply costs through precise ingredient application, and they can create consistent meals with little variation (i.e. not burnt).
The cost for Mukunda machines varies. The fryers start at $400, a flatbread maker costs $1,000 and the Dosamatic costs $2,000. These prices aren’t bad, considering that Zimplistic’s Rotimatic home roti making machine costs $1,000.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mukunda Foods’ machines pop up here in the U.S. joining other food automation players such as Picnic, Middleby and Miso Robotics. Mukunda is also working on applying its technology to other types of cuisines like Italian and other Asian fare.
Hopefully, though, the day won’t be too far off when I can travel to India and see (and taste!) the results for myself.
Make sure to check out food robots and other food tech at The Spoon’s Food Tech Live on January 11th!