Restaurant Offering Robot-Made Burgers Opening In San Francisco

Written by Ann Brown


Of course, San Francisco is known for its tech companies. And it’s also known for its culinary scene. So it makes sense that a company would try to combine these two sectors. That’s what Creator, founded by entrepreneur Alex Vardakostas in 2012, does. It’s a restaurant and a culinary robotics company. And starting June 27,  Creator will offer the world’s first robot-made burgers.

Located in San Francisco’s tony SoMa neighborhood, Creator has about 40 people on staff. The process is a show for patrons.

“The machine in action is a made for fast-motion video. First the brioche travels across the chute, pushed by a wooden block (and air pressure). It then shimmies down a chute as it’s sliced, toasted, and deposited in a leaf-shaped, custom-made container. Traveling along the copper-colored conveyor belt, it lands under the sauce spigots—there are around eight on offer, including barbecue, onion jam, shiitake mushroom, and ballpark mustard. Next are the sweet pickles, tomatoes, and onions—sliced to order, they land in slow motion on the bun. Shredded lettuce follows, then cheese—mild or smoked Cheddar and grated to enhance the melting potential. At the end of the line are large tubes of seasoning, including alderwood smoked salt, sprinkled on the griddled 4-ounce burger before the patty lands on the cheesed half of the bun,” Zero Hedge reported.

The whole process, from grinding the meat freshly to ready to serve, tales about five minutes. The robots can produce about 120 burgers an hour, with a goal of eventually producing 400 per hour.

All of this is still cheaper than your average franchise. Vardakostas said he has not cut out human staffRobots aren’t taking away jobs, he said.

“It costs about $1.5 million on average to build a McDonald’s. The machine is way less than that,” Vardakostas told Zero Hedge. There are no order-taking kiosks, human staff–aka “robot attendants”–will take the orders on iPhones, unless customers use the store’s app. They also deliver the orders to seated guests and offer up hospitality. And, some of the other menu items such as fries and side salads are prepared by humans in the back.

Vardakostas didn’t come up with this all on his own. He gathered a team to create the mechanics.

“It’s also an incredibly advanced engineering achievement. The team behind it includes an impressive lineup of engineers and roboticists from the pantheons of technology and user interaction like Apple, NASA, and Tesla,” San Francisco Eater reported.

Robot-Made Burgers
Photo by Albert Law

There’s a lot that goes into the robotics.

The burger will be assembled and cooked in a machine that has 20 computers, 350 sensors, and 50 actuator mechanisms. The only human interaction is having somebody there to hand the finished burger to the customer, according to Bloomberg.

Vardakostas, 33, is no newcomer to the burger business. Growing up in Southern California, his family owned the A’s Burgers chain and several other restaurants. In his parent’s garage, Vardakostas began working on the burger robot concept in 2010. Since then, he’s raised at least $18 million in venture funding from Google Ventures and other sources.

Creator, formerly known as Momentum Machines, expects to venture out to other cities, especially cities that aren’t as super-affluent as San Francisco, as well as locations like airport terminals, train stations, stadiums, and universities.

“We’ve always been a food-first company,” Alex Vardakostas told San Francisco Eater. “I wanted to create a better culinary instrument.”

Robot-Made Burgers
Photo by Albert Law