The New Top Chef

During the pandemic a pasta restaurant launched on UberEats in Paris. Cala quickly attracted a top 1% rating for it’s high quality to price ratio. Only now has it been revealed that the chef is a robot.

“We wanted to make sure that the quality of the product was what was really driving customers to come to a restaurant,” says Ylan Richard, who founded Cala in 2019, when he was 19 . “No one knew there was a robot behind the restaurant on the platforms.”

The economics are interesting.

Most restaurants spend roughly 30% of their costs on food; 30% on labour and 30% on real estate (rent, maintenance, electricity, heating and cleaning.)

In Cala’s restaurant, the kitchen is entirely removed and replaced by the robot, which measures 3m2 — significantly reducing the space needed. The restaurant also doesn’t have any seating.

The robot also allows Cala to produce many more meals per hour per square metre than other restaurants.

“With three metres squared, we can serve 1.2k meals an hour,” says Richard. “A traditional McDonald’s restaurant is 125m2, and usually they can serve 550 meals an hour.”

The robot means Cala saves 60% on real estate costs, which it says it puts into spending more on the cost of food ingredients, allowing it, Richard says, to deliver higher quality meals at a better price.

More generally, one can see top chefs producing recipes that are then scaled not just to restaurants but also to home robot preparation services. Meals would be produced by a subscription service (“We have 10,000 recipes from the greatest chefs on every continent.”). Restaurants would compete even more on ambience.

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