They really are

Restaurant robots are kinda hot.

The latest evidence of this? Yet another robot restaurant startup called Ono Food Company just got funded, this time from Lemnos, Compound and Pathbreaker ventures. The amount of the funding round was undisclosed.

While the specifics of Ono’s technology are still under wraps, I’d guess from the company’s description that they’re making restaurant robotics for fast food:

“Backed by Lemnos, Compound, and Pathbreaker Ventures, Ono Food Co. is building robotic systems to revolutionize the way we eat. We’re on a mission to create and serve delicious meals with high-quality ingredients at an affordable price.”

Vague, right? But from the looks of it, Ono could be building something similar to Spyce, which essentially is a robotic fast-food restaurant.  And while the term “serve” may have been a toss-in, I wonder if they’re also look at creating something similar to Bear Robotics’ Penny, a robotic busser/server robot.

Another interesting aspect of Ono is the founding team. The company’s CEO is Stephen Klein, who was previously the VP of Operations at Cafe X, the robotic coffee shop in a box startup based in California. The company’s CTO is Daniel Fukuba, who previously led an engineering team for a robotic automation company L2F. According to Fukaba’s Linkedin profile, some of the projects he’s led in the past for L2F include building a robotic assembly for a SpaceX rocket engine and a chocolate inspection and packaging robot. Even more interestingly, Fukaba also did early design work on robotic burger flipper Creator for the then-called Momentum Machines back in 2015.

The funding of Ono is not surprising. Over the past year we’ve seen a number of restaurant robotics startups get funding rounds, including Miso, Zume, EKIM and Chowbotics among others.

One reason the venture capital community thinks restaurant robotics are an interesting opportunity is because big restaurant chain execs are saying now’s the time for automation.

“We think we’ve hit the point where labor-wage rates are now making automation of those tasks make a lot more sense,” said Bob Wright, COO of Wendy’s, on a conference call last year.

These sentiments are being echoed by economists as well, who believe fast food is one of the first industries that will be significantly disrupted by robotics. While there are bigger societal questions about big food chains like how Wendy’s and McDonalds can gracefully replace existing workers with robotics for high-volume tasks, investors mainly care about making a return on investment.

And quotes like those from the COO of Wendy’s are all they need to hear to validate an emerging market.

Want to hear more about restaurant robots? Make sure to come to the Smart Kitchen Summit, the only event about the reinvention of cooking at home and in restaurants. 

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  1. Michael, you forgot us! Infinite Food automates food preparation, packaging and retail and pushes farther in to automating the vertical than the other companies mentioned. Conceived in 2015 and founded in 2016, we are raising Series A at present and seek to launch 300 locations across three markets in 2019.

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