Penny is a robot optimized for food running and creates a better restaurant experience for owners, servers, and customers.
December 18, 2018 — Bear Robotics in Redwood City, CA has begun to deploy Penny, a front-of-house food running robot optimized for kitchen-to-table delivery. Penny was created to help food service operators create more efficient and sustainable businesses.
In 2017, Bear Robotics co-founder John Ha left Google to open Kang Nam Tofu House, a Korean restaurant in Milpitas, CA. As the owner, Ha experienced the challenges faced by any restaurateur, like difficulties hiring, training, and retaining staff. He also often stepped in to do physical, laborious tasks on the floor, like dishwashing, bussing, and serving.
“Imagine walking or running five to seven miles a day juggling multiple trays of food and drinks in a narrow and crowded environment,” Ha said. “A light bulb finally flashed over me when I was knee-deep in this. I said to myself, ‘There has got to be a better way to run these establishments. Why not automate it?’”
Penny, the food running robot, is meant to work alongside human servers to enhance the customer experience. With Penny, a server spends less time shuttling food back and forth from the kitchen and can spend more time with customers. During an eight-month study at Ha’s restaurant in Milpitas, when servers collaborated with Penny, they saw an 18% increase in tips and a 28% increase in total sales.
Ha credits Penny’s early success to his all-star team of co-founders: Fangwei Li, Juan Higueros, and Bren Pierce. Li worked on the AI team at Google, Pierce has been a roboticist for 15 years, and Higueros has been a mergers and acquisitions and operational leader at several Fortune 500 companies and start-ups.
Bear Robotics’ goal is to address the increased pressure faced by the food service and hospitality industry around labor management and service quality. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, restaurants have a 1.5 times higher turnover than the average private sector business. This is typically because restaurants have several seasonal and entry-level employees. With Penny, food service establishments get to automate laborious tasks with a permanent employee that works alongside existing human servers.
Penny is optimized for safe navigation in a crowded environment. The AI-enabled robot draws a map of the restaurant and always finds a safe route depending on where humans or other obstacles are. With Penny, a human server is there to load plates on and off of the robot. And when dishes are removed from Penny’s tray, the robot immediately knows to return to the kitchen. By using Penny to run plates, servers are able to stay closer to the customer and provide a better dining experience.
“Our view is that the future of the food service industry will leverage robotics and artificial intelligence to perform basic tasks alongside human workers,” Ha said. “This should free up human workers to create value for restaurants in new ways.”
About Bear Robotics Located in Redwood City, CA, Bear Robotics was started to address the increased pressure faced by the food service and hospitality industry around wages, labor supply, and cost efficiencies. The company developed Penny, the first robot optimized for front-of-house food service. Penny shuttles food to and from the kitchen to allow human servers to spend more time with their customers. The robot is optimized for the narrow and crowded spaces that restaurant operators and other hospitality providers serve within. Penny has served more than 40,000 restaurant customers worldwide.
Introducing Penny 2 In early 2019, Bear Robotics plans to launch the next generation of Penny. Based on market feedback, Penny 2 will have several new features to help solve food service challenges. The new Penny can carry up to three trays for increased capacity and a variety of tray shapes, including a food tray, a drink tray, and bussing tubs for stacking plates. It will also have improved wheel suspension hardware for enhanced driving stability on uneven floors or thresholds. If a restaurant uses multiple robots, Penny 2 will be able to collaborate with each other for optimal efficiency.
The Bay Area Partnership Campaign In 2019, the company will seek out new restaurantpartners to open with Bear Robotics to prove that with Penny, starting and running a restaurant is easier. Team is looking for a strategic partner in their local community of the Bay Area who understands how Penny can impact the entire food service industry. Press Contact Eun Ro firstname.lastname@example.org (215) 275 1060