When something is particularly tasty in Hawaii, you say it’s “ono” or “onolicious.” Ono Food Co., which officially launches tomorrow, is looking to bring fresh, affordable, and ono foods to the masses through its mobile robotic platform.
Ono Food is kicking things off this fall with an automated smoothie making restaurant on wheels in Los Angeles. The company has outfitted a van with its self-contained robotic system serving up fresh concoctions such as mango + tumeric, strawberry + dragonfruit, and cold brew + cacao + avocado. Smoothies are $5.95, ordered through a mobile app or kiosk on the van, and can be whipped up by the robot in 60 seconds.
Ono is interesting in the food world because it’s creating a new category of food robot. It has the automated drink creation of Cafe X and Briggo, but it’s robot is mobile and the company is building out a data infrastructure like Zume, so it can better predict and move to different high traffic areas.
It’s not hard to see how Ono got to this hybrid solution. Between the two of them, Ono’s co-founders have worked at Cafe X, Instacart and L2F, which has done robot systems integrations for companies like Zume and Tesla.
One lesson in particular Ono Co-Founder and CEO Stephen Klein got from his time at Cafe X was having a human on hand. Though the smoothie ordering and making is all automated, Ono will have an actual person with each mobile unit to explain ingredients and sourcing and to take orders as well.
Smoothies are just a start for Ono. Klein told me by phone that the company will be adapting its robotic platform to other types of cuisine over the next year. While the company will own and operate its own mobile restaurants at the beginning, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Ono take a page from Zume’s playbook and license its platform out to other restaurants.
The robot will undoubtedly grab most of the headlines (including ours), but data seems to be the more interesting aspect of what Ono is building. Like Zume, over time Ono will be able to tell which neighborhoods generate the most sales and at what times. One obvious example Klein told me was parking the Ono van in the Financial District of San Francisco during the busy work week, but then picking up stakes and moving to the Marina on weekends.
If Ono can successfully combine its robotic and data platform, it will be able to create highly specific mobile restaurant experiences tailored to specific neighborhoods that could also plug into third-party delivery services so people wouldn’t have to leave their homes. This is something Zume is doing as well with its mobile ghost kitchens, but the difference is that Ono’s robots will automate the food creation, reducing the amount of resources necessary to launch a mobile restaurant concept.
Ono has only raised $2 million in pre-seed funding up to this point. If this smoothie run proves to be a hit, we could all be saying “Aloha” to a new type of restaurant experience.