At Creator’s website, cleverly named creator.rest, they invite you to devour a mini masterpiece. CEO Alex Vardakostas, who invented the machine that makes the masterful burgers, grew up flipping burgers at his parents’ restaurant and knows first-hand how repetitive and dull the job can be. After obtaining a degree in Physics at UC Santa Barbara, he met now COO and co-founder Steve Frehn at the DIY Silicon Valley TechShop. Now they have created the ultimate kitchen product: a 14-foot burger machine with 350 sensors and 20 computers that takes a little over a minute to cook the patty and five minutes to make each burger.
In September of 2018, after eight years of development, Creator opened their first robot restaurant at 680 Folsom Street in San Francisco. The burger bot doesn’t seem to be taking jobs either. On the contrary, Creator is actually well-staffed with 14 employees who take your order and stock up the burger bot, as well as everything else involved in running a restaurant. Frehn says, “We’re playing around with education programs for the staff. Five percent of the time they’re paid just to read. We’re already doing that. There’s a book budget. We’re paying $16 an hour. As opportunities come up to fix the machine, there’s a path we’re going to offer people as repair or maintenance people to get paid even more.”
Although the machine that makes the burgers has no name in order to center customers on the food itself, it has obviously been created with great attention to detail. According to a review in SF Weekly, “It’s more of a Rube Goldberg device, a transparent and almost unnecessarily analog contraption with copper flaps that hustle the burger along, all housed in beautifully cut wood.”
The analog feel belies the amount of accurate and precise tech within. The sauces are measured down to the milliliter, the seasoning down to the gram. Eleven sensors regulate the temperature, there’s AI to make sure the burgers are perfectly cooked every time. Everything is made to order. Tomatoes, pickles, onion, the bun are all sliced to order. It even grinds the pasture-raised whole chunks of chuck steak and brisket to order, laying the individuals strands of meat horizontally so that your incisors perfectly align with the patty.
Creator uses less space, which means less rent, which means they can spend more on the ingredients and still only charge $6 per burger, or 20% less than their human counterparts in the SF Bay Area. Robots may soon be making new dishes and new cuisines using their dexterity and advanced instrumentation. The increase in better technology in the restaurant industry is changing the way we think about and work with food.
Reality Changing Observations:
Q1. How do you feel about robots making your food?
Q2. How will the increasing use of robots in food service disrupt the way things are done now?
Q3. How will we keep human labor relevant in an era of increasing automation?