Diners at Creator in San Francisco watch through a glass case as their burger is grilled and topped with customized additions — all without any human intervention. A row of brioche buns moves down a conveyor, sending one at a time through a slicer. After being split in two, the robot bastes the bun with clarified butter, toasts it and then sends it on the conveyor where the burger is placed and toppings are added, just the way the customer ordered.
Every burger is created with freshly ground beef chuck and brisket chunks. “No oxidation, just pure flavors,” is the Creator’s mantra. The robotic system also slices the tomato, pickle and onion in front of diners, as well as grates the cheese. The customized burger is ready in about five minutes.
Creator recently opened its doors, becoming the first restaurant to automate the preparation of a major food category from start to finish. Such automation is one of the trends that Mintel, Chicago, predicts will change the US restaurant industry in 2019.
“Where you choose to dine says more about you than just your food preferences; it’s a reflection of who you are,” said Amanda Topper, associate director-foodservice research at Mintel. “With more restaurants extending their reach beyond the dining table, diners are supporting restaurants with cultures and values that align with their own lifestyles.
In many foodservice establishments, labor is a top concern, if not a crisis, according to Topper.
“Technology and robots are playing an increasing role in reducing labor costs, but foodservice will undeniably rely on humans for the foreseeable future,” she said. “As technology continues to drive the changing face of foodservice, restaurants must strike the right balance between operational efficiency, a desire for human interaction and excellent service to all customers.”