Prominent chefs including Thomas Keller and Jérôme Bocuse are investing in an all-robotic restaurant that is planning to expand along the East Coast in the coming year.
The chefs join Daniel Boulud as investors in Boston restaurant Spyce, which boasts an automated kitchen developed by a group of MIT students. Spyce has one location that opened in Boston in May, but is planning further expansions in the near future.
All up, Spyce has pulled in $21 million in investments for its current round of financing. It’s unclear how much culinary figures like Keller, Bocuse, and Minneapolis-based chef Gavin Kaysen have put in, but they certainly weren’t the only investors — venture capital firms like Maveron and Collaborative Fund seem to have contributed handsomely.
It may seem odd that chefs who built names on their own culinary techniques and finesse would invest in technology that might appear to render their own trades obsolete. But Spyce is definitely not a fine dining establishment: While Boulud is its culinary director and one of his former employees is executive chef, it’s a fast-casual operation, centered around health-conscious salad and grain bowls, and certainly doesn’t appear to have any imminent aspirations toward fine dining territory.
Rather, it’s that the MIT-designed and -built robots can deliver the relatively simple menu efficiently and consistently, while helping to keep prices appealingly low by shaving down labor costs. The bowls at Spyce, located in a prime inner Boston area, are each a very reasonable $7.50. Kaysen himself alluded to this in a comment regarding the investment, suggesting that he was drawn to Spyce because it’s serviceable, rather than gastronomical: “Their use of innovative technology and engineering to deliver a consistent, reliable product is driven by the desire to best service their guests.”
At Spyce, customers place orders via self-serve kiosks, and a robotic system of refrigerators and woks do most of the preparation, with only a little human help at the end in a process designed to take as few as three minutes. A similar concept, Eatsa, also exists in San Francisco.
Spyce is reportedly aiming to double in size over the next year.