The tech start-up will launch an automated fryer later this year to join its meal-assembling robotic solution, CEO Barney Wragg said at MCA’s Hostech conference

Tech start-up Karakuri is developing an automated frying solution aimed at the QSR fast casual market, CEO Barney Wragg told delegates at MCA’s Hostech conference on 27 April.

“I started doing some work with some friends in restaurants and realised when you looked at their business plans, their data, and their reporting, they had this huge problem: their kitchen was essentially a black box,” he said.

According to Wragg, Karakuri’s robotic systems are designed to improve food quality and consistency, reduce waste, and help solve staffing issues, alongside gathering data on production in the kitchen.

The start-up launched the Semblr foodservice robot – named for its ability to assemble meals – in the staff kitchen at Ocado’s Hatfield headquarters in September 2021. The robot has served over 4,000 personalised meals since.

“Food is a very difficult thing to handle robotically…in the automotive industry or the electronics industry, the components and the parts you’re putting together are very, very rigorously structured and fixed in size and shape. The thing about food is, it changes,” Wragg explained.

“So we had to develop technologies that could adapt and cope with that.”

Employees can scan QR codes and customise their lunch bowl with a selection of human-made ingredients. Semblr is designed to adapt to variations in ingredients and peak demand times.

“They can book the slot within a minute of the time they want to go and collect it. We’re able to do that because we know exactly how long it’s going to take to put a meal together based on what they’ve ordered and how our robot performs.”

The Karakuri /Fryr210 concept is similarly designed to gather data on sales patterns and adjust production. The product will be launched in December this year, with prototypes introduced over the summer.

According to Wragg, it integrates into kitchen systems by working with existing fryers and extraction units as well as integrating with delivery logistics to allow restaurants to measure preparation time and ensure speedy delivery.

The fryer can cook up to 60 kilos of fries per hour and fry other products such as chicken. Wragg said it ensures consistency and resolves staffing issues due to the difficulty of recruiting employees for the job.

“Every single item that goes through this robot will come out consistently, in the way it’s being cooked and the way it’ll taste to your customers.”

Karakuri has also introduced the Robot Ready program, a certification for other software providers to confirm their systems can integrate with Karakuri’s. The company has certified fellow hospitality provider Vita Mojo’s solutions through the program.

“Kitchen tech is evolving very quickly…we very early on realised at Karakuri that what we needed to do was to be able to integrate and work with those systems.”

Wragg also revealed Karakuri is working on concepts to build dark kitchens that are entirely automated, from the cooking to delivery process.

“We think this is realistic and achievable within the next eight years, and this is one of the targets we’re working on,” he said.

“We don’t think about ourselves as a vendor of hardware or software. We think of ourselves as a solution provider to your restaurants.”