Jan 24, 2024 - Technology

A restaurant robot might mix your next cocktail

A robot bartender pours a frothy drink.

Adam, a bartender made by Richtech Robotics, pours a boba tea. Photo: David Becker/Getty Images

He can make 65-70 drinks an hour, never needs a bathroom break and doesn't ask for a tip — and soon, he'll be able to make conversation and take your order.

  • Adam the robotic bartender is an example of a new breed of restaurant robots that are moving from novelty items to hospitality mainstays.

Why it matters: Ongoing labor shortages, high turnover and the persistent quest for greater efficiencies have prompted restaurants to lean in on robot servers and food prep workers.

Driving the news: Improvements in AI and robotics are fueling a renaissance in robots like Adam, which are trained to work alongside humans and relieve them of more tedious tasks.

  • Adam was introduced a year ago as a countertop robot that could make cocktails, coffee and boba tea.
  • Soon, he'll also be able to "engage in sophisticated conversations with customers and emulate human actions with exceptional accuracy," per his maker, Richtech Robotics.

What they're saying: "Our focus for Adam is to really have him be as versatile as possible," Richtech Robotics president Matt Casella tells Axios.

  • "The idea is that Adam can be employed in every type of beverage-making solution," Casella says. (His next assignment: smoothies.)
  • While Adam is obviously selfie-bait, he's also proving himself by making complex drinks in under a minute.

Where it stands: A dozen Adam robots have been deployed nationwide so far, in venues such as the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Los Angeles, the Cloutea boba shop at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, and the Botbar Coffee chain.

  • Adam also gets rented out for parties and conferences.
  • A complete Adam with a custom setup table and equipment sells for $180,000, though Casella says they're experimenting with other pricing models and partnerships.

Fun fact: The term "cobot" refers to robots that work collaboratively with humans — as many kitchen robots do.

Zoom out: All the big chain restaurants are testing and installing AI-infused robotics — mainly in the back of the house, but also in customer-facing roles, both tableside and at the drive-thru.

  • Robot servers and bartenders interact with customers, while kitchen robots shoot kale into salads, fry tortilla chips and cook burgers.
  • Chipotle, for one, is investing in a "digital makeline" where robots prepare salads and bowls. (It already uses a machine named Chippy to make tortilla chips and a contraption called the Autocado to mash up the green stuff.)
  • Sweetgreen's new automated chop-and-prep system "can produce up to 100 salads in 15 minutes, with improved accuracy," per Restaurant Business.
  • Chipotle's founder, Steve Ells, is opening a chain of robot-run vegetarian fast-casual restaurants in New York City called Kernel, Eater reports.

Zoom in: Companies that specialize in restaurant robotics, which are proliferating, are expanding their product lines.

  • Richtech, for instance, also makes robot servers and floor cleaners.
  • "I envision a place where we're at fully automated kitchens," Casella said. "I truly believe that through automation we're going to be able to get better, higher quality food closer to the consumer."
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