Trends for 2021: Food Automation

Dec 17, 2020

By: Chef Natasha Reta

The thought is difficult for many to bear, but the reality is all too prevalent to deny. The world of robots has been and will become our new normal. People no longer fear the robotic arm of “Flippy the Burger Flipper,” replacing their human counterparts. Automation will increase throughput by enhancing BOH staff with what is so aptly named Cobots. Designed to work beside humans to fulfill menial tasks that often slow production, Cobots help increase fabrication and chopping, provide maintenance to programs or equipment that is otherwise unsafe for humans, and even take the guesswork out of cooking temperatures and packaging. Compiled with automated sensors and triggers, these Cobots are programmed to provide services at increased speed and efficiency. These are critical factors as people begin to return to work with new safety regulations, increased labor wages, and increased delivery and take out.


With travel and work localized due to the pandemic, most of our business will continue to take place from the safety of our own homes and communities. Along with our Cobot friends of efficiency, more stand-alone kiosks will appear within our communities. These are self-contained bots that can provide a composed meal or fresh item for service or pick up that day—utilizing phone-based apps to limit social interaction at the pick-up site and increase user customizations. Take, for example, Blendid, a smoothie bot in San Francisco. With the Blendid app, you select your smoothie from chef-created blends, increase or add items to your personal preference then send the order for preparation at your specified pick-up time.


These self-contained kiosks can provide healthy options with contactless service. Many are designed to decrease their carbon footprint, localize their ingredients, and provide a service to communities that may be underserviced due to a lack of labor resources. Wilkinson Baking Company has created the Breadbot. The Breadbot takes fresh, shelf-stable flour, yeast, and sugar products to make fresh-baked loaves of bread. This will allow a community to serve freshly baked bread without preservatives, without costly plastic packaging, without days in shipping and handling, creating a safer product that has undergone less human manipulation.


mini bakery
Mini Bakery by the Wilkinson Baking Company


Lastly, we will see a rise in healthy vending machines as salad bars, and buffets are a concept of the past that likely will never return. Sally from Chowbotics is a salad vending machine that allows you to choose from many healthy options and customize them to your preferences. A transparent window in the vending process allows the user to visually see each product’s freshness in their order visually.


In 2021 it’s clear that people will continue to have growing concerns about their health and safety. This pandemic has pushed us to limit all face-to-face interactions, and that efficiency and consistency will need to provide quality and entertainment in an otherwise socially distant society.