Last month, I visited Boston with my sixteen-year-old son.
After a few days of site seeing in a city rich with American history, I asked him what his favorite thing he’d seen so far.
“The robot restaurant,” he said without hesitation.
So much for the founding fathers. Instead of Faneuil Hall or the site of the Boston Massacre, my son thought the coolest thing in Beantown was a restaurant where bowl food is assembled by robots.
I can’t really blame him. Overall it was a fun experience, and the food was tasty. Here’s a quick review of my son’s first (and favorite) robot restaurant.
Walk In and Order
We visited on a Sunday afternoon. Walking in, the first thing I noticed was not only were there a row of robots, but a couple of humans are running around helping out behind the counter.
The place was crowded. People were ordering food at the kiosks, and most tables had people scooping food out of bowls.
There were a row of kiosks that are immediately visible when you walk in. A manager type was hanging out near the front wearing a suit, ready to help if we had any questions. We decided to try it by ourselves.
The kiosk ordering experience was easy. It reminded me of ordering a meal at Eatsa, in part because I was ordering bowl food, but also because it was an intuitive ordering experience that moved very quickly.
There were a number of basic bowls to choose from. Each bowl cost the same: $7.50. I picked a Thai bowl and my son an Indian bowl. Once your bowl is picked, you can choose from a number of add-ins and sides such as soft boiled eggs, cabbage slaw, and pumpkin seeds. After sides, you choose from one of three drinks: iced tea, hibiscus ginger and tart kiwi limeade.
Once a meal is ordered, the information is sent to the robots.
After portions of veggies, rice and protein are scooped into one of seven woks, a dispenser scoots around and squirts sauce into the meals. From there, the woks start spinning and cooking. Above the woks, signs tell you what’s cooking. A sign above one wok read “Now Cooking Thai Bowl for Mike Wolf”.
The food is cooked quickly (the restaurant touts each meal takes about three minutes). I chatted briefly with the manager, who told me during the busy lunch hours the robots can prepare around 150 or so meals per hour. He said that while lunch is their busiest meal, they serve around 40 or so meals per hour during dinner.
Final Prep and Serve
After a couple of minutes, the wok tips over and drops the steaming hot food into a bowl.
From there, bowls are picked up by a human who adds garnishes and the sides. The experience wasn’t all that different from watching over a a Subway sandwich being made (minus the processed ham and turkey). I chatted with the prep server, who politely answered all my questions.
The meal is served in a paper bowl with a lid on it. On to is the customer’s name and bowl type printed on the lid paper. My bowl read “Mike Wolf” and it had the world “Thai” in small print.
The food was excellent. My meal, the Thai bowl, was yummy, but my son out-ordered me with the Indian bowl. Perfectly seasoned chicken, peas lathered in tikka masala sauce, potatoes and brown rice. Delicious.
The drinks weren’t as good as the food. Since the customer dispensed them at a drink station, I tried them all. I liked the limeade the best, but overall none were outstanding.
But this was ok because the food was tasty and cheap, and the order and preparation experience was quick and fun.
“I’d eat there every day,” my son told me as we left.
Paul Revere never stood a chance.