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CNet has a story about the RoboBurger, described as "a red box that measures nearly 7 feet tall and 5.4 feet wide, and a giant touchscreen plays animations of what you imagine is happening as you wait … you can hear the sizzle and smell the beef as goes from a 4-ounce frozen patty to char-grilled burger."

The RoboBurger has been installed at the Newport Centre Mall in Jersey City, New Jersey, and the CNet reporter ordered one to judge the quality.  An excerpt:

"It takes seven minutes and $7 (plus tax) for RoboBurger to make a pretty simple hamburger. No pickles, no lettuce or tomato. Just condiments. While the burger gets cooked, the potato-bread bun is getting toasted and put inside a box. The bottom half of the bun gets a squirt of ketchup and mustard. The top half gets a big plop of gooey cheese. Within seconds of the patty finishing cooking, the meat lands on the bun, the box travels down a chute and the box's lid gets flipped closed.

"It is not picture perfect, as cheese slides off the side when the bun is flipped over, but it tastes pretty good and has a light crunch from the char. It reminded me of a basic burger I'd make at home in a hurry, without the frills you get at a restaurant. I could see the steam coming out when I lifted the bun -- and when you bite into it, you'll feel that just-off-the-grill heat that you don't get with fast food."

Some further details:

"The robot here handles the cleaning, too. After every order, the machine will self-clean by spraying hot water and scraping the grill. It also can run a more thorough, 15-minute cleaning cycle that involves soapy water and sanitizer. The only time human interaction is needed is to resupply materials and clean out the wastewater. (It holds its own water -- no water line hookup needed.)

"The RoboBurger team tells me they expect to come by to service it every two or three days -- but can come anytime they need more burgers. The machine holds 50 patties, but no one is ever handling food out in the open at the machine to restock. A facility nearby fills containers of food -- the beef blend is ordered from the famous New York meat supplier Pat LaFrieda, and the buns are Martin's Potato Rolls. Service technicians slide in the containers of food to be dispensed."

The story also notes that the RoboBurger team is looking to expand into "areas like colleges, airports, hospitals or even office break rooms. The founders tell me they're also looking into machines that offer different options, like breakfast sandwiches or veggie burgers, and adding custom sauces to expand beyond ketchup and mustard."

KC's View:

It probably is inevitable that robots are going to take over some food production tasks, and maybe even do better than their human masters counterparts.  People don't combat this trend by doing the same old thing … they have to do better, have to create differential advantages, have to establish brand equity and loyalty in ways that robots either cannot do or will not do.