Udi Shamai, entrepreneur and owner of Pizza Hut Israel, with more than 30 years of experience in the field, has, in recent years, encountered many difficulties – from labor to food safety.
He realized that the current situation must change and that the field of food, and fast food, in particular, is at the forefront of the Second Industrial Revolution.
He has brought together the greatest experts in the fields of food, robotics, and mechanics, among others, and together they formed a winning team that has been working on Hyper’s brainchild – the first fully autonomous store.
Hyper Food Robotics has developed the world’s first fully automated fast-food restaurant. Its robots can churn out 50 pizzas an hour.
There’s no human being inside the sealed 40ft unit. It’s operated entirely by robots.
They take the delivery of the ready-mixed dough and other ingredients at the start of the day, and from then on, they’re on their own.
The robots stretch and rotate the dough, add exactly the required amount of toppings, bake the pies to perfection, slice them, and deliver them to the customer through a hatch.
The process takes nine minutes from start to finish. Pizza Hut is the first to use the robot technology at its branch in Mazor, central Israel, but it’s adaptable to any pizza brand.
The customer orders and pays by app, or using the kiosk at the front of the store. But few can the resist the temptation to watch the robots make pizza.
“For the first time, people are seeing a robotic store – a fully autonomous store with no workers – and they are amazed,” said Udi Shamai, CEO of Hyper Food Robotics, the company that developed the robo-restaurant. He also owns Pizza Hut Israel, which has 90 outlets across the country.
“And also the fact that you can see the pizza in process, so you can really track what’s being done inside, gives it another layer of excitement.”
The robo-restaurant is equipped with sensors and cameras to make sure the robots prepare the dough and scatter the toppings properly, and it automatically calls for help if there’s a problem that needs human intervention.
The robots also clean themselves every 40 minutes using chemical-free ozone-treated water, which breaks down odors, bacteria and viruses, including E. coli and salmonella.
All of the company’s technology was built from scratch, and in the coming months, Hyper Food Robotics, founded in 2019, will open its second robo-restaurant, this time in the US.
It’s not the only company trying to automate fast-food, but Shamai says his is the only full-concept autonomous store. Rivals retrofit existing stores with robots.
Now that the robots have perfected the art of pizza-making, the Tel Aviv-based company has shifted its focus to burgers. Later on, it will teach the machines to prepare Asian-style bowl foods – like rice with vegetables, tofu, meat, and sauces.
“In a few years, there are probably not going to be any human workers in the fast-food delivery business,” Shamai said. “Not a lot of people want to work there – they’ve understood that there are better jobs out there for them.
“Back when I was a student, everybody my age would work as a waiter or waitress. Nowadays, people have different views of what a good job is and how you can make money.
“None of my kids want to work in these types of businesses. This change reflects the fact that we need these stores.”
The fast-food turnover rate in the US – which is higher than any other sector in the country – isn’t the only reason robotic establishments will be more appealing to people and businesses alike.
The machines are very accurate at dispensing food, and use the same amounts every time. This prevents food waste from the establishment itself, and from unhappy customers who may return or throw away orders that have too many toppings, or too little cheese.
Restaurants and retailers from higher-income nations are among the biggest food waste contributors. With so much activity in the kitchen, workers inevitably make mistakes, like knocking over pots and pans filled with food that needs to be immediately discarded. In other cases, staff may serve meals with inconsistent portions.
Shamai says many big-name fast-food restaurants have shown interest in his robo-restaurant. Hyper will manufacture its establishments for them, and have its robots prepare meals under their brand name.
Prior to founding Hyper Food Robotics, he founded Dragontail Systems, which automates food delivery by dispatching drivers, and coordinating every order location, driver location, and meal status.
In 2021, Dragontail was sold for approximately $93.5 million to Yum! Brands, a fast-food corporation that operates KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut.