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One day soon, a robot will make you a salad – TechCrunch

Hyphen was quickly mentioned in my newsletter (good, you should sign up) when it was sneaked out in August. Automated food preparation is going to be a big thing in the future. Many predicted this at the start of the pandemic, when stay-at-home orders and fears over COVID transmission left many restaurateurs wondering how much of the process they could possibly automate.

I suspect many thought this would be something of a temporary problem. Two years into the pandemic, it’s probably safe to say that our expectations of “temporary” have changed somewhat. But even though the spikes have eased in some areas, finding staff for often poorly paid restoration work continues to be a problem.

For this reason, we’ve seen a lot of investment around companies promising to help automate industrial kitchens. This side of the equation is starting to catch up with the level of excitement that has surrounded robotic food delivery for several years now. We’re going to see a lot of focus on certain food types early on, due to the relative ease with which they can be automated. Pizza has been an obvious first choice for quite some time, due to its simplicity and the fact that most people love pizza.

Salads and bowls are also good candidates. They are self-contained and are gaining popularity as a quick lunch option for workers who have less and less time away from their computer screens.

Hyphen offers Makeline, a modular solution to automate the bowl production process through a sort of conveyor belt process that takes place under the counter. This last detail is interesting, because many of these companies view automation as outward-facing. Depending on how you look at it, you might consider having a robot cooking your lunch as a cool or, at the very least, novel idea. But Hyphen’s system relies on putting a human forward, in part to have a face for customer interactions.

This week, the San Jose-based company announced a $24 million Series A. The round, led by Tiger Global, brings its total funding to $34.4 million. This final round will be used for the kinds of things you’d expect robotics funding to be used for, including additional R&D, building a production facility, and expanding into more markets. The company plans to roll out the Makeline system in five markets over the next two years, but is not yet offering details.

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