Shipping containers area already being used to make hip residential homes, and in the not too distant future, you’ll see them pop up as fully automated robo-restaurants, too.
Mezli is the latest startup working on such a robot-restaurant-in-a-box concept. The San Francisco Bay Area startup has already launched the restaurant part of the equation, operating a human-powered Mezli that makes Mediterranean-style bowl meals out of a ghost kitchen in San Mateo, California.
But at the same time, Mezli is also busy building its robotic restaurant. When completed, the container restaurant will be fully autonomous, cooking, plating and packaging the food. The first version of the robotic Mezli will hold 15 ingredients and will be able to place items inside a container rather than just mixing them altogether or layering them on top of one another.
Mezli Co-Founder and CEO Alex Kolchinski told me by video chat last week that a robo-Mezli can go 48 hours or make 300 meals (whichever comes first) before needing to be serviced by a human. Kolchinski wouldn’t disclose what types of heating/cooking methods it was using, but did say that the robot allows users to write their name (or whatever) in sauce on their food. Once cooked and packaged up, food will be deposited in a cubby that a user will unlock with their phone. By using robotics, Kolchinksi plans to keep costs down and be able to serve meals for as little as $4.99.
When asked whether Mezli was a technology company or a restaurant company, Kolchinski was quick to say they were definitely a food company. Mezli has developed its own menu and plans to focus on launching its own line of Mezli robo-restaurants.
This owner/operator approach is a little different from Highpper, an Israeli company that is also building a fully autonomous restaurant in a shipping container. Instead of creating its own chain of restaurants however, Highpper is licensing its technology out to other restaurant brands (first up will be a pizza restaurant launching in June).
Mezli is still very early on in it’s ambitions, Kolchinski couldn’t even say how many meals its robot will be able to make in an hour. But the company has secured a pre-seed round of funding and plans to bring its first robot-powered Mezli online in just over a month.
If Mezli’s first autonomous spot is a hit, there’s a good chance a shipping container restaurant will be popping up in your neck of the woods someday soon.