Fast food workers in New York City demand a raise to $15 an hour, full-service chains like Darden, Applebee’s and Denny’s back away from plans to trim workers’ hours because of healthcare insurance mandates—it’s been a rough couple of months for restaurants on the labor front.
But labor concerns could become a thing of the past if the big idea from Momentum Machines pans out. The San Francisco-based company is ready to introduce a device that produces fast casual-caliber restaurant food automatically, no human labor required.
Momentum Machines says it “aims to revolutionize the fast food industry with an innovative robot that makes hamburgers from scratch. Line-cooks are obviated so the labor and efficiency savings add up to $135,000 a year for the average fast food restaurant. Additionally, the next revision of the device will use gourmet cooking methods never before used in a fast food restaurant. This will allow us to start the first restaurant chain to profitably sell very gourmet quality hamburgers at low, fast food prices.”
Sound like a goofy pipe dream? The prototype burger machine already works as advertised, cooking and wrapping 360 burgers per hour, with toppings like tomatoes and pickles sliced immediately before being placed on a burger. A beta version, capable of custom-grinding meat for each customer, is in the works.
The Momentum Machines crew is made up of brainiac mechanical engineering types who hold degrees from top West Coast schools like Stanford, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Barbara. Founder Alex Vardakostas grew up in the restaurant business and has 10 years, experience managing his family’s burger chain.
If successful, this device would help solve labor cost concerns and provide a huge competitive advantage to restaurants that have one. Momentum Machines might sell gear to other operators, too. “Our current device can pay for itself in less than one year, making equipment sales a second path for us,” it tells potential investors.
Momentum Machines could be a game-changer on several levels.