Interest in Cooking Robots Accelerates

Japanese and U.S. retailers experiment with robotic foodservice equipment.
December 12, 2018

TOKYO – Japanese convenience store chain Lawson has “hired” a robot to cook its signature fried chicken dish, Karaage-kun, Japan Today reports. The chain sells around 20 billion pieces of the fried chicken bites.

Yesterday, the inaugural Freshly Cooked Karaage-kun Robo model had its first day on the job at a Lawson’s Tokyo unit. Customers order and pay for the chicken at a counter, then scan the package’s bar code at the machine and put in the paper Karaage-kun packaging to “catch” the freshly cooked chicken. Lawson will run the pilot program until Dec. 28, with an eye to eventually making the robot fully automated.

Meanwhile, in the United States, Walmart has engaged Flippy, a burger-frying robot, at its headquarters to cook deli food, Business Insider reports. The test is intended to see if Flippy can take on repetitive tasks at the chain’s deli kitchens, such as placing chicken tenders into the right fryer basket and removing them at the right time.

“What we want to do is assist the hardworking linemen cooks and chefs in America with tools to give them the ability to faithfully reproduce while taking the burden off some of these more repetitive and mundane tasks,” said David Zito, CEO of Miso Robotics, which makes Flippy.

Lately, Walmart has been investing heavily in automation, including automated carts that pack orders and floor scrubbing robots.