Do Restaurant Robots at Fresno Expo Reveal Future of Food Service?
Bear Robotics is at the MADE Central California food expo, turning science fiction into science reality.
Servi is a robot that buses food to customers at table service restaurants. It is already in use at Denny’s at Herndon and Blackstone in Fresno and one other local restaurant.
Appetite for Fresno
Bear Robotics was founded by John Ha, a former Google engineer. The company’s operators program the Servi robot with a map of the restaurant.
“We pre-map a location. (Field operators) will set up the location, coordinate where each table point is, kind of work with the restaurant owner, get the best flow integrated so it’s personalized at his location,” said company representative Jeff Johnston.
Johnston says Servi does not replace human waitstaff. It can help servers work a larger area of a restaurant, such as when a staff member calls in sick.
“For the server, it actually helps increase their tips because they’re able to spend more face-to-face time, instead of having to run back, get your food, get that stuff. They’re actually on the floor interacting with the customer,” Johnston said.
The cost is $15,000 per robot or $1,000 a month under a three-year lease.
Grand Prize Winner Gives Women a Second Chance
Winning a $10,000 check for the most innovative new product at MADE Central California, Saint Francis Homeless Project showed that it cares for dogs and the women who make the canine treats.
The Fresno-based group hires women in need of a second chance, perhaps because of a drug or criminal record. That mission, plus the quality of their treats, convinced three judges to award Saint Francis the top prize in the competition.
Sandra Kaye, founder of the group, said they have graduated 179 women from the program, with 70% now working or going to school.
Katie McCoy is one of the graduates. A victim of domestic abuse and trafficking, she turned to drugs and has a criminal record. Saint Francis helped get her life back together.
“It’s the whole reason I’m here, honestly,” McCoy said. She is now the general manager of the Panera store in Riverpark, and still helps with the Saint Francis program. “I get the chance to give back by hiring women that are graduating out of this program.”
McCoy said the program gives women like her confidence. That showed when she made the presentation on stage at the food show’s Pressure Cooker event Wednesday. The dog treats can be found at places like Save Mart.
“What Sandra has taught us is to not be ashamed of our stories,” McCoy said.
Why take the risk on women with a record?
“Because everybody needs a second chance,” Kaye said.
Orange Infused Spirits
Miller Duvall is passionate about distilling liquor. He saw an opportunity to produce a spirit from crops grown in California.
“I’ve traveled around the world a bit and I just thought it was so crazy that here we are in California, the most agriculturally diverse place in the world … but we don’t have a signature spirit,” Duvall said.
President of Los Angeles-based The Spirit Guild, Duvall’s family grows clementine oranges in Bakersfield.
“It’s very subtle. It’s kind of an orange blossom meets vanilla kind of meets orange zest. It’s not exactly like a snapshot of an orange, like an orange Jolly Rancher or something. It’s a little different. It’s a little more nuanced,” Miller said, describing Vapid Vodka.
Duvall said he makes his spirits “old world” style — taking the juice, adding yeast, letting it ferment, then distilling up to four times.
The Spirit Guild also makes gin. The liquors can be found in some restaurants and retailers like Total Wine and More.
Duvall said he is at MADE Central California to make connections with the agriculture industry.