Last month, Chowbotics announced the worldwide availability of Sally 2.0, an updated version of its robotic salad dispenser. The Hayward, Calif.-based company called Sally “the world’s first fresh-food robot” and said Sally 2.0 has a larger tablet display, a new user interface, wheels for greater portability, and redesigned canisters to reduce the time needed to clean and refill it.
Chowbotics introduced Sally last year, and it is in use in more than 70 locations. The award-winning robot can handle up to 22 ingredients in numerous custom combinations in addition to pre-programmed recipes. Sally is available for purchase or on a monthly basis.
Sally 2.0 features and early adopters
The company said that Sally 2.0 now offers breakfast and snack options in addition to salads and grain bowls. Chobotics claims that its systems reduce the risk of food-borne illness and enable customers to control dishes for caloric or allergen concerns.
Among the first adopters of Sally 2.0 is The Salad Station, a fast-casual chain in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. “After bringing 11 Sally 1.0s to market, we were thrilled with the positive consumer feedback and return on investment,” stated Scott Henderson, founder and president. “We’re excited to announce that we are now rolling out 50 Sally 2.0s across seven states, giving us the ability to expand our fresh food footprint far beyond the reach of our brick-and-mortar stores.”
San Mateo, Calif.-based food services company ISS Guckenheimer plans to introduce new menu items with Sally 2.0. “We have enjoyed collaborating with Chowbotics to pioneer breakfast offerings made possible by food robotics technology,” said Helene Kennan, CEO of ISS Guckenheimer and a James Beard-nominated chef. “We believe robotics has tremendous food-service potential because it enables fresh food at smaller locations or times when we wouldn’t have staff available onsite.”
Designing a food-dispensing robot
Mara Behrens, vice president of design and marketing at Chowbotics, responded to the following questions from The Robot Report about Sally 2.0’s design and deployments:
Was the larger interface developed in response to customer feedback?
We saw the need to have a bigger space to show Sally’s menu and to make the experience more friendly and easier for users.
What was the biggest challenge in designing Sally 2.0?
Our goal was to make Sally 2.0 extremely simple for both operators and end users. The biggest challenge was creating a friendly, easy-to-use experience for everyone. We spent a lot of time testing and experimenting with the overall look and feel and functionally to get to Sally 2.0. There is a lot of staff rotation inside kitchens, and users can feel intimidated by a new device, so we wanted to develop a new version of Sally that anyone without training could use.
Do the new ingredients listed for Sally 2.0 require any special refrigeration or containment?
The new ingredients don’t require any additional refrigeration. All of the ingredients are refrigerated at 38°, and Sally comes with a recommended “refresh” schedule that guides the chef on how often to replace and replenish the ingredients to ensure optimal quality. Also, the ingredients stay protected and fresh in controlled temperatures, minimizing food-borne illness or risk for contamination.
How long does it typically take to clean and restock the system? Is this a daily process?
It depends on the customer and demand. It goes all the way from twice a day to every other day. The robot is refrigerated, keeping the machine more hygienic, and allowing for it to be cleaned every other day. Sally’s popularity ensures ingredients are restocked often maintaining freshness and quality.
How much does the robot weigh? Are its wheels lockable?
Sally 2.0 weighs 750 lb. We saw a need to offer the ability for Sally to move more easily and added wheels. The wheels are lockable with swivel and brake functionality.
When might you expand from schools and hospitals to airports other public locations?
You can find Sally across the U.S., Canada, and Europe in a variety of settings, including hospitals, college campuses, and offices. Here are a few of our most recent deployments:
- Universities, such as Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland; College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.; and Elmira College in Elmira, N.Y. In addition, Oberlin College and Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio, will offer students and staffers salad around the clock with Sally 2.0.
- Hospitals, including the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock, Ark.; IU Health Bloomington Hospital in Bloomington, Ind.; and Erlanger Children’s Hospital Kennedy Outpatient Center in Chattanooga, Tenn.
- International: Chowbotics has partnered with Bonduelle for the Cabaletta brand in Europe, and the French plant-based food firm has ordered 50 units.
Chowbotics had its latest funding round last year and recently hired a new CEO. Given the rising interest in food robotics, do you anticipate new funding soon?
We will raise our next round of funding in the upcoming year.
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Author: Eugene Demaitre