Back-of-House Bots

Automated prep work on the horizon? 

After a long day at the workplace—plant, shop, office, you name it—who doesn’t have a favorite restaurant they enjoy as their favorite place to unwind? Anything from mom-and-pop spots to acclaimed steakhouses requires a lot of hard work and manpower behind the scenes. While ambiance and hospitality from your hostess and server make up half the experience, what goes in your belly wouldn’t happen without sous chefs, line cooks, commis chefs, and porters. For those familiar with the restaurant industry (and perhaps those of you who repair food service machinery), this part of the process is known as the back of the house.

Line cooks may be out of work soon, if things continue in this direction. Automated processes are being introduced to the back of the house at some restaurants, whereas they’d previously only appeared up front.

One company, TransAct, produces a labeling system designed to curtail prep work (the pre-heating, chopping, slicing, mixing, and organizing tasks you often associate with real cooking) that could present consequence to some of the most valuable employees in the food service industry.

This is an industry that will remain vital as long as people want to go out—the irony here is that decision usually stems from, you guessed it: not wanting to do prep work or cook things yourself.

One thing to highlight here is that the company is targeting human error as an incentive to use its products. The prep work usually done by humans includes preparing frozen foods and keeping scrupulous track of date and time. This, unfortunately, does result in an error or two over time. But are these errors so severe that an entire position should be wiped out?

TransAct’s first Accudate system, launched in 2013, integrated menu information, food safety requirements and expiration data, enabling restaurants to automate the labeling process. Managers could update menu items via USB. Subsequent versions enabled wireless capabilities.

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