Creator, the restaurant that uses robots to cook up hamburgers, opened to walk-in customers San Francisco this week, as automated restaurants continue to pop up across the country.
Creator features a 14-foot long kiosk-like machine that grinds, cooks, buns and tops burgers. The restaurant actually had a bit of a soft opening back in June, during which it required a ticket to eat there. Since that time, according to Eater, the company has been learning customer preferences and adapting its burger design.
At Creator’s full opening this week tickets aren’t required, but service is first-come first-served, and the restaurant is only open from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Wednesday through Friday.
Creator’s burger-making robot is different from Flippy, the burger-making robot that works at Caliburger further south in Pasadena, CA. Flippy uses an array of cameras and thermal sensors to cook the burgers, but still requires humans to dress them.
But the two are part of a larger trend in using robots in quick service restaurant settings. In addition to Caliburger, Flippy also learned how to fry up chicken tenders for its pilot at Dodger Stadium this summer. Another Flippy will also be deployed at an upcoming Seattle Caliburger location later this year. Elsewhere in the Bay Area, Zume Pizza uses robots to pull pizza crusts out of the oven, and over in Boston, Spyce uses robots to make delicious (according to our own Mike Wolf) bowls of food.
As we’ve noted, food robots are great for high-volume restaurants where customers want to get in and get out. Robots work quickly and precisely, they don’t take breaks and they never get injured. The results, however, may need a little fine-tuning. We aren’t in SF, so we haven’t tried it ourselves, but friends of The Spoon have told us that the burger was fine to above average (especially for a burger in downtown SF that only costs $6). Commenters on Yelp echoed those sentiments. People like the robot and the experience, but the burgers are “pretty good,” and “slightly underwhelming.”
Robots are becoming commonplace in restaurants, so their novelty and ability to attract customers in and of themselves will start to diminish. Once that happens, the food will need to be good to keep people coming back. That’s why even though I’m anxious for Flippy to make its Seattle debut, I’m more excited about the Crowd Cow burger coming to our first Shake Shack.