People sometimes ask – “will Sally the Salad Robot cause job losses?” Now that 2018 is dawning, I felt it may be good to share some unexpected things we learned in 2017.
For those unfamiliar with Sally, she makes custom salads. Food service workers prep ingredients and load them into Sally once a day, instead of loading them onto a salad bar. Sally takes a lot less space than a salad bar and is more hygienic. If you want to learn more about Sally, here’s a Bloomberg article about her. When we first introduced Sally to the world in April 2017, we had expected restaurants and cafeterias to be early adopters, with other markets like hotels, gyms, airports following suit later. However, we got a big surprise.
We started seeing a huge amount of interest from convenience stores, something we never expected! Convenience stores are starting to lose tobacco revenue in a big way due to legislation. They are looking to bring fresh food into their stores to compensate. The situation is tailor-made for robots. Convenience stores want fresh food 24 x 7. The fact that robots work tirelessly all night is a big benefit. Convenience stores that want to sell fresh foods cannot generally afford to hire additional labor to produce it. This is something robots can help with. Convenience stores today sell boxed salads – our trials indicate stores with Sally can sell 2x-3x more salads than the boxed salad category since people can choose what they want, and Sally provides a fun user experience. In fact, 5 of the top 20 convenience store players are working with us for deployments. We were even selected as one of the 5 great equipment tools at the National Convenience Store show by Technomic. Now, what does all this mean for job losses? Since convenience stores don’t have labor producing fresh food in the first place, there is no labor eliminated with Sally getting adopted. In fact, jobs are created since humans chop up ingredients for Sally in a central commissary, fill up Sally’s canisters in the commissary and deliver them to the convenience store.
The other market where we have seen adoption is office cafeterias. Specifically, there are only two use cases for Sally we have encountered.
(1) Many offices provide lunch but not dinner. Employees who work late often go hungry or eat junk food from vending machines. Not exactly how you want to treat your hardworking employees. With Sally, cafeteria staff load her up in the afternoon when they go home. Employees working late can get fresh healthy food for dinner. This actually creates extra labor for prepping Sally’s ingredients.
(2) Many offices or office buildings are too small to afford a cafeteria. They typically just have break rooms. In these cases, Sally’s canisters are filled somewhere else and brought into these locations where a Sally can provide fresh, healthy food. Here again, labor is created for moving and cleaning Sally’s canisters and prepping her ingredients.
So, how many job losses occurred due to Sally in 2017?
Sally has created 30 new jobs at Chowbotics, and has caused no job losses so far. Since employees work to prepare ingredients, clean Sally, fill canisters, and deliver canisters, Sally creates job opportunities. From what I’ve seen in 2017, I can confidently say the number of job losses due to Sally the Salad Robot will be negative for the future too i.e. she will create more jobs than she will cost.