Mezli, a maker of robotized container restaurants, has won the 2021 Smart Kitchen Summit Startup Showcase.
The company, which currently operates a prototype restaurant in San Mateo’s KitchenTown, was started after two of the company’s cofounders, Alex Kolchinski and Alex Gruebele, met while studying at Stanford. Like most college students, the two were always on the hunt for food to fuel their studies but usually found the options lacking.
“Both of us had this problem that we’re trying to solve that it was really expensive to eat good food out,” said Kolchinski from the Smart Kitchen Summit virtual mainstage. “We were pretty busy as Ph.D. students, we can cook all the time. But if we wanted to eat out, it was kind of a choice between going to McDonald’s, which didn’t make us feel great if we ate it every day, or going places like the Stanford dining halls.”
So alongside a third cofounder, Max Perham, they got to work on building a robot restaurant. Unlike many robotic restaurants or kiosk concepts, the trio decided to create a completely customized robot purpose-fit for the job.
“We’ve got kind of a lot of opinions on how to do things in a way that makes the most sense for the problem we’re solving, which is making good with meals on-site that tastes great that are good for you and we do it efficiently,” said Kolchinski. “We’re not using any robotic arms. We’re using custom hardware, some of which we’ve designed in-house and filed some patents on. And some of which we’re adopting from off-the-shelf things. We’ve done some pretty hacky things in here. And I think we’re going to continue to take this kind of hybrid approach in the future too.”
And what does that future entail?
“We’re building up to where we have a whole fleet of these across the country, even across the world, where these are all over the place because they’re cheaper and smaller than restaurants, you can put them in more places.”
According to Kolchinski, Mezli plans on building thousands of containerized restaurants, starting with their current Mediterranean bowl concept and experimenting with other ideas along the way.
“We are building the robotics in a way that can do a lot of different stuff. Basically, anything that goes in a bowl of soup, salads, you name it, curry bowls.”
Mezli joins a series of other innovators participating in the industry’s longest-running food tech startup showcase. In its seventh year, the Smart Kitchen Summit Startup Showcase has been a launching pad for a variety of food tech startups such as Tovala, SAVRPak, Bostrista, Cultured Decadance, Millo and Freshstix.
You can watch Alex Kolchinski’s full interview below.