Newark, New Jersey-based RoboBurger claims to have created America’s first burger vending machine and is now looking to expand. The startup aims to bring its burger vending machines to the Philadelphia area within the year after launching its first outpost at the Newport Centre Mall in North Jersey last month. So, how does the unusual vending machine work?
Once a customer orders a burger, the machine uses a five-step process by which a robot grills a hamburger patty, toasts the bun, dispenses selected condiments including ketchup and mustard, assembles the burger, then presents it to the customer. The burger is made in about six minutes, costs $6.99 and the machine accepts cards, Apple Pay and Google Pay.
As for the ingredients, the RoboBurger uses Pat LaFrieda burger patties, Martin’s potato rolls, Heinz condiments and aged Wisconsin cheddar cheese as it seeks to provide a healthier product than some larger fast-food chains. The ingredients are stored in a unit that measures 12 square feet and contains a refrigerator, automated griddle and a cleaning system. Not to mention, it is also the first hot food vending machine approved by the National Sanitary Foundation, a public health and safety organization.
“I started RoboBurger in my garage 17 years ago, and now there couldn’t be a better time to bring it to life and have everyone experience it,” said Audley Wilson, RoboBurger co-founder and CEO, in a press release. “RoboBurger gives everyone freshly grilled, delicious burgers — while ensuring a safe, contactless experience. RoboBurger always comes out piping hot and is never pre-cooked and kept warm.”
But what do the burgers taste like? Today.com writer Jessica Montgomery tried RoboBurger for the first time and reported, “My perception of vending machine food completely changed once I took my first bite,” she wrote. “RoboBurger is just the beginning of a revolution in the food industry where meals are prepared using artificially intelligent technology.”
The company is hoping to place its burger vending machines in spaces where freshly prepared, hot food options aren’t always available, like college dorms, hospitals, airports and offices. RoboBurger is actively seeking retail partners in Greater Philadelphia and is looking to appeal to office workers who are starting to return to the city.
Once a burger vending machine is set up, RoboBurger pays a revenue share to retail partners and services the units. This method minimizes startup costs associated with launching a new eatery, puts a location near the desired customer and minimizes the labor involved.
Outside the management team, RoboBurger has about 15 employees, including a Newark-based manufacturing team and an operations team that is responsible for stocking each burger vending machine. The company prioritizes hiring workers without college degrees and providing them with hands-on skills to move up in their field.
RoboBurger enters the market as artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly common in drive-throughs, where chains like Sonic and White Castle implemented robots to take orders and flip burgers. Chipotle, for example, is even testing out a robot named Chippy that makes tortilla chips, while many restaurants have increased mobile ordering options throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in response to ongoing challenges like the labor shortage.