K-startups armed with AI and cost-effectiveness… ‘Take Aim’ in the US Restaurant Automation Market

input2023.04.02 17:43
correction2023.04.02 17:43

Domestic start-ups, successive export contracts
From ordering and paying to cooking and serving
A successful case of 10 billion won a contract
Combining Cloud and Autonomous Driving Technologies

US ‘automation’ wind without labor
“An opportunity for Korean companies with technology”

Korean startups are landing one after the other in the US mainland restaurant automation market. It wins export contracts one after another by developing devices and systems that replace human labour, from ordering and paying to cooking and serving. Coupled with labor shortages in the local restaurant industry and rising worker wages, there are comments that domestic companies with cost-effectiveness (price performance) will accelerate their market share expansion.

◆Order and pay period ‘complete automation’

According to the startup industry on the 2nd, Monthly Kitchen, a food service platform startup, signed a contract with POS Partner, a New York-based vendor management system (POS) company, to export restaurant digital operation solutions. It is worth 8.15 million dollars (about 10.6 billion won) in total. It’s an automation system that bundles a cloud-based kiosk, POS, and order fulfillment channel (mobile app) into one. It will be supplied to restaurants, bakeries and cafes in New York from this month.

Monthly Kitchen was founded in 2018 by Kim Hyuk-kyun, who served as CEO of Iriver. The main business model is to operate a ‘shared kitchen food court’ where restaurant founders rent space. As of last year, there are 130 affiliated restaurants.

Introducing an automation model is an idea that CEO Kim has been thinking about since the beginning of the business. He said, “I thought there would come a time when the restaurant industry, whether in Korea or the United States, would operate without employment. The solution also reflected a customer relationship management (CRM) function and a system that reflects the tax rate and tip amount of each state in the United States.

◆ Benefits of ‘cost-effective’ AI robots

Bear Robotics has a manufacturing plant in Korea and supplies service robots to 40 states in the United States. The company was founded in 2017 by former Google CEO Ha Jung-woo.

The new robot unveiled last month carries 16 plates at a time. An official from Bear Robotics explained, “It is easy to use in large restaurants with many people per table.”

Local robot startup RGT also signed a supply contract with major restaurant companies in Hawaii and Georgia last month to supply artificial intelligence (AI) serving robots, ‘Servot’. AI is also a trend in cooking robots. Founded by CEO Hwang Gun-pil of KAIST, ENI introduced an AI robot ‘Alpha Grill’ that grills hamburger patties. Last year, through the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, I had the opportunity to showcase a local restaurant.

Domestic restaurant automation startups are gaining attention in the United States because of the imbalance in the local labor market. According to the International Finance Center, through Corona 19, the excess demand for US labor increased to 5.3 million and the displaced workforce to 3.5 million. Following inflation, the minimum wage is also on the rise. Controversy arose in California when a bill was prepared to raise the minimum hourly wage in the fast food industry to a maximum of 22 dollars (about 28,800 won). An official from the investment industry said, “With the end of Corona 19, the labor shortage in the accommodation and food and beverage industries of the United States has worsened.”

Correspondent Lee Si-eun