Blendid Robotic Kiosks Revolutionize Automated Retail

As a young man, Vipin Jain, now the CEO and co-founder of Blendid, was fascinated by a piece of equipment on Star Trek called a replicator. In this futuristic piece of fiction, you could make food from energy without other ingredients. It was a pretty quick way to cook and, of course, no need to clena up. Not a bad idea with only one drawback, of course: It wasn’t real.

Blendid Robitic Smoothie KiosksThe replicator these days remains fiction, but technology is transforming the food and beverage sector. Online ordering, robotics and artificial intelligence are accelerating change. Orders routinely flow in remotely, and robots, in some cases, help prepare or fulfill them. Meanwhile, companies track data in real time, which helps them better monitor, adapt and, if necessary, shift supply lines.

Jain these days is among the executives bringing a possible future to the food and beverage industry that until recently might have seemed fiction. Blendid and Jamba this month debuted a co-branded robotic kiosk where customers can use an app to order smoothies customized to the blend of their choice. While the kiosk in a Dixon, Calif., Walmart is at most inspired by that earlier vision, it’s a very real use of robotics.

Jain, a veteran tech executive, believes the pandemic is accelerating robotics and AI, giving kiosks a bigger place in the future. He calls his robotic kiosk “a solution for contactless food preparation and delivery which has become imperative during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Technology has been transforming food preparation and delivery for years, leading to trends such as ghost kitchens, remote locations where food is ordered online and delivered. Workers prepare food, but at a more low-profile location than a restaurant, including for online brands.

Blendid Smoothie Robotic KiosksAutonomous robots are being used to deliver food. Equipment with computer vision is being used to sort foods on assembly lines. And stores are testing out tech (such as robots) to monitor shelves, seeing what’s in stock and confirming it’s labeled and priced properly.

Kiosks are another way technology can transform food and beverage, ranging from in-store at McDonald’s to Jamba’s and Blendid’s tech teaming. This is leading to partnerships from Silicon Valley to stores where robotics and AI are part of the F&B picture, present and future.

At co-branded Jamba and Blendid kiosks, you can order smoothies and select ingredients via an app that remembers your preferences. The kiosk can make a smoothie in three minutes, store it until guests are ready for pickup, make up to 45 an hour and work on up to nine drinks simultaneously.

The pandemic makes contactless food processing from sorting to selling potentially attractive, although at a time when malls, one possible place for kiosks, face financial pressure. Kiosks, however, could work at a wide range of locations.

Walmart, with its stream of customers, is one possibility, although Blendid, Jain said, is also looking at colleges, cafeterias and airports going forward. The Dixon, Calif. Walmart is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Robotics brings benefits such as consistency, quality, potential savings, profitability and safety without human touch in a contactless transaction. McDonald’s began rolling out self-service kiosks in 2017, helping boost the company’s stock price and, it said, freeing staff from taking those orders.

Meanwhile, Moe’s Southwest Grill in June opened its first kiosk-powered restaurant in Pittsburgh. Kiosks could play a bigger role as freestanding structures, in quick serve and other venues.

Self-service kiosks along with various payment options can upsell through suggestions based on AI. And cell phones provide a contactless way of ordering online, including delivery and curbside pickup.

Still, this isn’t all high tech. Blendid’s kiosks mix robotic arms, blenders, refrigeration and dispensers. Jamba is looking at what “role robotic kiosks could play” in its business, according to company President Geoff Henry.

He sees robotic kiosks as an “opportunity to get Jamba into more locations” and “leverage the latest in technology.”

Belendid KiosksIn tech talk, Blendid’s kiosk is a “proprietary food automation platform,” using robotics in ways different from Star Trek’s replicator. Blendid and Jamba kiosks rely on ingredients provided by U.S. Foods, as well as high tech.

Artificial intelligence is part of the picture, but so is something traditional: fresh, healthy ingredients. While high tech is one trend, a taste for healthy ingredients is taking hold in the pandemic, and that, while not new, may prove another powerful force going forward.

For more information visit https://www.blendid.com/


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