Xook, a developer of robotic fresh food kiosks, recently raised $1.3 million in a pre-seed funding round from a group that includes SRI Capital, Pitchright Ventures, a handful of angel investors and tech accelerators. The food tech startup is now eyeing the US for the rollout of its “food courts in a box.”
Xook created automatic cafeterias, similar to the size of vending machines or kiosks, that make snacks and simple foods based on pre-fed ingredients. All customers need to do is select the snack or meal of choice by pressing a few buttons, then the pre-fed ingredients are transferred to a cooking chamber, mixed, cooked and served.
According to the company, its first kiosk, the Xook Primus, will be able to make salads and meal bowls across a variety of cuisines, including Mexican, Italian and Fusion. Xook’s current pilot kiosk in Bangalore has made over 60 types of meals and is currently offering over 25 of the most popular dishes. Notably, the kiosks offer freshly prepared food to customers in under a minute.
While these types of kiosks are prevalent in cafeterias of tech giants like Facebook and Google, access to an abundance of tasty, healthy and free food is rare in most US workplaces. On the other hand, in countries like India, most corporate employers provide access to cafeterias stocked with food options for employees.
Unlike other robotic kiosk startups, Xook plans to use a business model in which it provides the kiosk to a customer at no cost and the company profits through the sale of meals. The meals, which can be paid for by the employer or employee (or resident in a multifamily housing unit), will be replenished daily by a Xook employee located in each city.
The company is confident this model will work because of the low cost of its machines, which will each cost about $15,000 to manufacture. While the cost seems high, it compares to a cost of up to $70,000 for other robotic kiosks. Xook can achieve a lower cost per unit due to its custom-built robotics and easy access to the technical talent and manufacturing in India, where most of its employees are located.
For now, the company is planning to launch its first pilot in the US by the end of the year and has lined up two food brands to help them enter the market. These partners, which include a bowl meal brand and a salad brand, will use Xook as a channel to market across different locations like apartment buildings and offices.
When it launches in the US, Xook will join others like DoorDash’s Chowbotics, Nommi, RoboEatz and SJW, which are all fighting for market traction with their kiosks. Despite the competition, Xook believes it can differentiate itself by relying on food brands as partners. Xook is hopeful its ability to handle a variety of foods will allow them to add additional partners as it grows.