The world has completely changed due to COVID-19 and the pandemic, and there is an ‘untact’ culture at the center of it. Face-to-face contact with others was minimized to avoid infection, and this has become a trend in all industries. Non-face-to-face services that do not require human-to-human interaction have exploded, and this trend continues to this day, calling for an endemic. The fastest development through this is robots, which are rapidly being applied to the food service industry such as restaurants and cafes. Due to the nature of the catering industry, where an unspecified number of people gather, employees and guests are exposed to an environment prone to infection, and the risk continues to affect those around them.
In the era of untact and high wages, the number of places with serving robots or barista robots is rapidly increasing, and it is now common to see robots serving food and making coffee. However, this is still not the case in the kitchen. Kitchen work requires hard labor and is a typical not-to-want-that-job for many except for professional cooks. However, with the birth of an innovative robot that can take charge of the kitchen recently, a new wind is blowing in the kitchen culture.
Storang, Inc. has developed a variety of service robots and launched a complete untact unmanned store platform from customer orders to serving, cooking, and droplet-shield tables, and is operating the world’s first 24-hour unmanned cafe system. <PowerKorea> met CEO Yeo Ui-gu.
A safe 24-hour unmanned robot cafe that combines technology with vibe
Storang is a company that operates the world’s first 24-hour unmanned cafe system, ‘Storant’, which combines cutting-edge IT and AI with hardware technology. Storant is an abbreviation of ‘Smart Automatic Restaurant’ that pursues a perfect unmanned system. CEO Yeo said, “Due to COVID-19, which came along with the fourth industrial age, related technologies have developed rapidly, and all industrial fields we know are rapidly changing accordingly. However, even under these circumstances, the development of the food service industry has been quite slow. In particular, kitchen work is still classified as not-desirable. So I brewed my idea of unmanned cafes.”
The perception of the server that carries the food is also not that positive. Because of this, very few people want to choose this job, and even if there is, it is very difficult for employers to hire excellent people at high wages. As the delivery and packaging ratio has increased due to the pandemic, it also has become difficult for restaurant owners to maintain servers. Storang is a business that proposes a new paradigm in the catering industry by providing a plan to fundamentally solve these problems.
Building an unmanned smart cafe system where robots are responsible for everything from kiosk ordering to serving
Storant refers to a perfect untact system where guests do not encounter anyone other than those who accompanied them or other guests from the time they enter to the time they leave. When you enter, you can easily order your drink through the kiosk and the app. Beverages ordered are manufactured by a ‘smart barista robot’, and finished drinks are served by a serving robot ‘Godolsoi’. The smart barista robot has the ability to prepare 50 different beverages, and the smart technology always makes the same quality. There is no such thing as accidentally making an order and other beverages like humans do. The average manufacturing time is only 1 minute and 30 seconds, so there is less waiting time after ordering. Godolsoi incorporates autonomous driving technology and drives autonomously through a rider without a marker. At this time, it does not simply move, but uses the obstacle recognition function to recognize objects that have fallen on the floor or passers-by and avoid them so that the drink is not damaged. In addition, the sensor of the Godolsoi is loaded with a beverage identification function, which identifies the type of beverage and guides it by voice. The voice guidance includes safety-related comments along with menus.
The company has built an unmanned smart cafe system using this system. Because there is no space or movement for employees, there are no restrictions on space utilization, and since it is operated 24 hours a day, sales can also be increased. In addition, since the operating cost is lower than that of hiring an employee, labor costs can be dramatically reduced. CEO Yeo said, “There are still areas that require people in terms of cleaning, filling of raw materials, and management. However, the average square footage of our stores is 298 square meters, and the number of store managers is 0.5 full-time workers.” There is no need for a full-time worker to stay all day long as a person goes in the morning to clean and refill raw materials, and then return to work in the evening again to fill and clean raw materials.
Air curtain-loaded droplet shield tables
Robots are responsible for everything from cleaning to quarantine
Based on the restaurant service that has been introduced so far, the restaurant plans to introduce an unmanned restaurant operation platform. As part of that effort, the store in Cheonan has a sign that reads ‘Storant Bistro’. Along with drinks, it sells food and beverages such as wine, cocktails, steak, and pasta. Storang currently operates 11 Storant stores and has accumulated know-how on unmanned systems. CEO Yeo said, “We have caught several problems and went through a complex process such as resolving software and device compatibility issues. As a result, we have a complete system that is ready to be put on the market.” The restaurant now has 11 stores and plans to expand gradually.
In this process, the restaurant’s most important focus is non-face-to-face customer service through droplet-shield tables and robots. The droplet-shield table is a table that creates a thin droplet barrier like a curtain by blowing air from the bottom up to prevent infection and food contamination. As social distancing disappears, it is becoming more common for people to sit close to a meal and eat, and many people are anxious about this. The air curtain of the table blocks droplets between the front and next seats as if a thin wall, so you can enjoy a comfortable meal and conversation without a worry. The air curtain also blocks vibration and noise to protect the privacy of dinners. The table where customers have left is detected by the store’s quarantine robot and disinfected immediately according to a complete unmanned quarantine system. The triple HEPA filter and UVC LED lamp are used to sterilize and purify the air at the same time, so you can feel more secure.
|▲ Storang / CEO Yeo Ui-gu|
Building a complete and secure unmanned store platform that extends to restaurants over cafes
Central control is possible and can be applied to any industry
The restaurant plans to open the first unmanned barbecue store in November of this year. The entire system from ordering using kiosks to serving by robots, cleaning and quarantine, and droplet-shield tables will be built into one platform and the business scale will be expanded to more diverse fields. Technically, the company has secured a system that allows robots to cook BBQ, but considering the Korean sentiment, humans do the cooking. In the future, CEO Yeo plans to introduce a system in which robots cook eventually.
The basic operating system that the robot cooks and serves regardless of the type of food other than BBQ are the same regardless of the industry. If you put cooking tools and programs that can make kimchi stew into the robot, then it makes it. Likewise, you put your desired tools and programs into the robot to make the food you want. Yeo said “The coffee machine makes coffee, while the robot cooks various dishes including BBQ, and the robot takes the place of people for serving and cleaning and disinfecting. And the customer can be seen as a service platform that minimizes the overall human labor for safely eating at the droplet-shield table. It also has an operating system that can operate these systems as a whole. This platform can be centrally controlled and can be applied to any industry. It can be seen that the content of our business is to disseminate this platform not only to the domestic market but also to overseas markets.”
Winning TOP10 Korean Products of CES 2022 at CES 2022
To become a platform that will make a standard for the global catering industry through pioneering global market
Until now, there are many products such as serving robots and barrister robots on the market, but such an overall unmanned operation platform did not exist. Storant has been actively promoting and marketing since January of this year, taking advantage of the aforementioned differences. This innovative system and platform were appealed to those involved in domestic as well as overseas exhibitions and as a result, it is receiving explosive attention. Early this year, it won the TOP10 Korean Products of CES 2022 at CES 2022.
Storang is targeting the United States, which has the largest market for unmanned restaurants, as its first target, and is also receiving a great response from local hotel and restaurant industry officials in the United States. Yeo said “We will continue to do our best to create an advanced kitchen environment using a restaurant and food tech with an environment that can minimize human labor and labor costs, and make our platform as a standard for the global catering industry.”
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