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Sally exists as an opportunity for growth, for both the people who operate it and the people who are nourished by it.

By now it’s clear that COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the people and businesses that work in foodservice. In the industries that Chowbotics supports like healthcare, higher education, and grocery, one of the most significant of these impacts was the initial demise of self-serve foods. As the new world anchored on social distancing, salad bars closed and foodservice teams lost a valuable asset in their ability to provide fresh, customizable meals.

Here at Chowbotics, we’ve seen this challenge create a new level of necessity for Sally the Robot. While some robots or technological advancements exist to reduce labor expenses through automation, Sally exists as a catalyst for foodservice teams to do more, to improve, and to increase their top-line growth. Culinary teams work alongside Sally to cook and prepare ingredients for its canisters, the same way they would for pans at a salad bar. But unlike a salad bar, Sally utilizes data, precision, and interactivity to push a team far beyond what was previously possible. It helps its operators work smarter to optimize menus and ingredient usage. It enables better care for customers and new revenue opportunities with 24/7 capabilities. It facilitates diverse culinary menus not achievable with other self-service solutions. And it empowers individualized service through interactive nutrition information. Sally does all this while keeping food safer and fresher so it’s better for the people who eat it and better for the environment by producing less waste.

Empty salad bar

With the onset of COVID-19, grocery stores, hospitals, and schools lost a valuable asset in providing self-serve meals: the salad bar.

This sense of growth and opportunity that Sally delivers to a team rings through most clearly when heard directly from the operators we’re grateful to work with:

We are very busy and are delighted to have Sally as a part of our team. It takes up much less floor space, so we were able to add more store goods in our store. We do about 125-150 salads a day in the machine so it is just priceless for us.

Nancy German

Unit Manager, Oberlin College

After demoing the machine I realized this could be complementary to our concept and an opportunity for us to serve 24 hours a day fresh salads. As The Salad Station continues to grow, real estate challenges continue to be one of the biggest issues that Sally can solve for us. Chowbotics has done a fantastic job making operational tools available for our operators. The Salad Station partnering with Chowbotics has really been a home run for our company.

Scott Henderson

President, The Salad Station

Due to COVID-19 we have had to close our self-serve salad bar which really had a negative impact on customer service. Fortunately, we have two Sallys where people can still enjoy fresh salads. Sally has proven to be a valuable investment during this pandemic. The equipment provides a safe, sanitary method to distribute fresh ingredients. I wish we had more robotic equipment like Sally in our food service areas.

Tonya Johnson

Director of Nutrition Services, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

It’s so much easier for us because we can focus on doing the bagels, and the hamburgers, and the pizzas and not have to touch the salad so it’s more sanitary. It’s faster and easier for us. The technology is amazing man! We’re grateful to have it here.

Food Service Team Member

Oberlin College

 

As we see Sally’s foodservice teams not only survive but flourish despite the current pandemic, we’re inspired to continue to push the boundaries of fresh food for each and every valued partner that we reach. We do this because Sally is about much more than just reviving the salad bar. It’s about supporting and energizing the men and women on the teams who care for it. #FreshForAll

Hungry for more?

Behind our robots are people who care deeply for our mission to make fresh food more accessible in innovative new ways. Here’s what they’re saying about today’s post.

Chef’s Notes by Chef Kang Kuan, VP of Culinary

So, the question stands, how do we innovate out of this moment? And be less constrained by the cost of time, place, and return on investment? Here’s this chef’s humble opinion…

As a member of the food industry who still has a job during this COVID pandemic, I am grateful. But with so many of my friends and colleagues out of work, I keep trying to understand where the food industry system has failed during this time. For something as simple and necessary as breathing, the act of eating should be just as simple and as necessary. 

As a young cook, we are often only exposed to the entertainment and hospitality aspects of what we do. As we mature, we realize that the food business is nuanced and complex.  Our guiding North Star always takes us back to the need to satisfy hunger. Yet getting food to people is often hindered by time, place, and return on investment. These factors make the business of preparing and serving food highly sensitive to economic fluctuations. As a result, many food operations are over-leveraged to stay in business, riding on thin margins, and banking on volume to stay afloat. 

Therefore, many of us “would be small business owners” shy away from a life committed to a restaurant. We understand intuitively that the food and hospitality business is at the mercy of the flutter of a butterfly’s wings on the other side of the world. This has been illustrated time and again like with the economic downturn of 2008 and the current COVID pandemic.  

So, the question stands, how do we innovate out of this moment? And be less constrained by the cost of time, place, and return on investment?

As a chef, if I designed a solution from scratch, it would be…

  • Affordable enough to buy into, yet with the ability to scale  
  • Cheap to operate with a small footprint that is achievable of disproportional output
  • Able to transcend the limitations of restaurant service hours
  • Flexible enough to capture each chef’s creativity and amplify its impact beyond what a single restaurant achieves

This food business solution would make the act of getting good food as easy as breathing. And in turn, it would create new small businesses that are more resilient and immune to the current strife that has made so many cooks and chefs jobless.

Sally is the answer to this Chef’s wish list.

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