Aniai is bringing a burger-cooking robot to restaurants with $12 million

Aniai, the startup that made the burger-grilling robot, Alpha Grill, said today that it has raised $12 million. The round brings a total increase of up to $15 million. The money will go towards setting up its first manufacturing facility, Factory One, in South Korea. The company will also deploy a cloud-based AI software platform for the robot called Alpha Cloud.

The adoption of robots in the restaurant business is becoming increasingly popular can help restaurants address their pain points such as labor shortages and rising wage issues. Robotics allows restaurants to save 30% to 70% on labor costs, and restaurants could replace more than 80% of restaurant positions with robots, according to research report.

«Hamburger chains employ six to eight kitchen staff per shift to grill hamburgers,» said Aniai CEO Gunpil Hwang. «Alpha Grill allows restaurants to hire just one staff member to grill burgers.»

The New York-based startup says it will launch Factory One this year to meet growing market demand for the Alpha Grill, with around 500 pre-orders for delivery starting in the first quarter of 2024. Its manufacturing facility will be able to produce more than 1,000 robots a year. The company’s double-sided Alpha Grill, launching in 2022, can grill 200 patties per hour, or eight patties at a time (after staff place them on the grill).

Cloud-based artificial intelligence software and a real-time vision sensor will allow the Alpha Grill to perceive its surroundings, identify the color of the patties on the grill, and monitor the temperature, shape and quality of the patties. If a customer’s patty does not meet their cooking recipes, specifications and requirements, Alpha Grill immediately notifies the cooking staff to ensure quality control.

The startup is currently developing its second product, Alpha Kitchen, Hwang told TechCrunch. With an expected launch in 2025, Alpha Kitchen will be able to automate the entire burger-making process, from cooking the patty and toasting the bun to dispensing vegetables and other ingredients.

Aniai currently serves seven customers, including fast-food hamburger chains in South Korea, CJ Freshway, BAS Burger and DownTowner. It has also been testing Alpha Grill with hamburger chains in the US since last year. The outfit says it will also use the latest capital accelerate its expansion in the US and South Korea.

Aniai is a part the growing kitchen automation industry. Other companies in this space include Mouse Robotics, behind Flippy, the burger-flipping robot; Botinkit, a cooking robot manufacturer in China; and Chef Robotics in San Francisco.

InterVest led the latest funding alongside new investors SV Investment, UK-based Ignite Innovation and previous backer, Capstone Partners.

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Founded in 2020, the startup had 30 employees in December 2023.

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