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Mentioned Companies: BKW, CMG, MCD, WEN

Robots Ask: Where’s the Beef?

by David Conway, September 16, 2014
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Next Generation Robots that automate the hamburger-making process could provide restaurants with speed, customization, and flexibility while saving them money. The food should taste better too!

Restaurants are constantly trying to improve the speed and flexibility of order taking and delivery, which is a robot’s core competency. A Momentum Machines robot, for example, can prepare more than 360 hamburgers per hour, a rate of roughly ten seconds per burger. It also eliminates problems with which cooks constantly grapple, like incorrect toppings, difficult new menu items, and human contamination.

Thanks to new concepts like Chipotle [CMG] and FiveGuys, consumers are demanding more meal variety and customization. McDonalds [MCD], Wendy’s [WEN], and Burger King [BKW] could respond with and benefit from robots that affordably expand menus. Next generation robots, capable of grinding different meats, will offer even more customization. Thanks to programming and automation, a fast food restaurant could become very creative, offering hundreds or thousands of combinations, winning back consumer loyalty.

Robots also will save restaurants money. In the US, fast-food cooks earn roughly $19,000 per year. [1] Benefits and training costs add to employee expenses. Using a 15% discount rate to calculate the present value of savings over the 12 year life of a robot, restaurants should be willing to pay roughly $100,000 for each. The Momentum Machine is roughly 30 times more productive than a single line cook. Consequently it theoretically could provide up to $3 million in human labor value.

With 508,000 fast-food cooks in the US, the potential market is huge. If robots were to replace just 10% of those cooks, robot sales would surpass $500 million. Introducing robots to the fast-food industry would not only allow restaurants to save money and improve quality, but also to expand menu options to satisfy customer demands for more variety and customization. Lets eat!