We know that robots can cook up hamburgers, fry tater tots, and even make delicious bowls of food in high volume restaruants. But YPC Technologies wants to put that fast food style of robot to work making more complicated dishes like salmon filets, mushroom risotto, or even raspberry sorbet.
Based in Montreal, Canada, YPC (which stands for Your Personal Chef) has built a robotic workstation that its says can make high quality complex, fresh-cooked meals. Right now the YPC robot uses an articulating arm which grabs ingredients, pours them out into various multi-cookers and other devices that do the chopping, stirring and cooking. The YPC robot can make thousands of recipes and, depending on the complexity of the dishes ordered, can cook roughly 100 dishes per hour.
For all of its robotic bells and whistles, however, YPC Co-Founder and CEO Gunnar Grass told me by phone that YPC is not intended to be a fully autonomous kitchen. Humans will still be around for tasks like re-stocking ingredients and doing the final presentations. “The plating of the dishes is very difficult to achieve with robots,” Grass said, “in the long run we’ll automate 60 percent of kitchen operations.”
Grass stressed that this version of the cooking robot with the articulating arm is very much in the prototype phase, and will go through much more innovation, including the addition of a two-axis arm. Eventually, Grass said YPC will probably take up 40 sq. meters (a little more 400 sq. ft.), so it’s around the same size as the PAZZI automated pizza restaurant.
At first, YPC wants to own and operate its own robot eateries and is targeting mid-volume traffic areas like co-working spaces and retirement homes. It might also partner with a food service operation like Sedexo to be in university food halls that have more than one dining option. The YPC is not meant for high-volume sites like arenas or cafeterias that service thousands of people at once.
Co-working spaces actually seem like an ideal environment for a YPC system. There are plenty of office workers who want a good meal without having to leave the office, but there aren’t so many orders as to overwhelm the articulating arm.
While robots like Flippy are already working shifts, and Creator and Spyce are robot restaurants already open to the public, YPC is still very much in its early stages. Grass said his company raised a pre-seed round of funding, and that the operating prototype still needs to get the appropriate regulatory licenses before they go more public.
YPC is illustrative of the fact that automation in dining won’t be limited to just high throughput venues like fast food restaurants and arenas. Eateries that service smaller, but steady customer bases will also be able to take advantage of food robots, and will be able to provide a wider variety of meals than just burgers and tater tots.