By Carla Charter
What started as an MIT college project for an entrepreneurship program has now become Spyce restaurant the first robotic eatery in Boston.
According to Luke Schlueter, co-founder of Spyce, he and other co-founders Michael Farid, Brady Knight and Kale Rogers were in college at the time that they came up with the idea for a robotic cooking assistant. “Farid was working on his Master in Mechanical Engineering and the rest of us were working on Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. We didn’t quite have the time to cook ourselves and didn’t have the funds to eat out. Being Mechanical Engineering majors, we decided to see if we could develop a robot to cook for us. We built our first prototype in the basement of our fraternity house. Once we built it we realized it was too large to fit out of the door, so we took it all apart, shipped it across the river and rebuilt the demo on campus,” Schlueter said.
The prototype was built for a summer program at MIT called Global Founders Skills Accelerator (GFSA) since renamed Delta V. “The prototype is a summer long entrepreneurship program that gives participants a crash course in entrepreneurship and starting a company. At the end of the summer on Demo Day we brought our first prototype to demonstrate. It was pretty well received we served food to all the MIT community who attended,” he continued.
The Robot does the job of the line cooks It does the manual and more dangerous jobs such as manning the grill, allowing employees to add more creative and personal touches. These employees check the final product, taking the bowls from the robot and adding the finishing garnishes to the meal. He said “The robot allows employees to concentrate on things hands are better at like the creative side and customer service,” Schlueter said.
The restaurant also has employees working in the front as well to assist customers with the ordering process and general questions. “We don’t think of the restaurant as fully robotic because a big part of restaurants is hospitality. ”We really think the personal touch is a huge part of the restaurant experience. Robots aren’t really good at hospitality. Restaurants are in the hospitality business,” he continued.
As for the menu, Schlueter said, “Our focus is on healthy food you can eat every day. When Sam Benson executive chef was creating the menu, he created delicious wholesome meals that would fill you up without slowing you down. Customers might stop for the first time for the novelty, we want them to come back because the food is fantastic and the price is unbeatable,” said Schlueter.
The restaurant serves grain-based bowls, start at $7.50, with an international flavor, Thai, Indian, Moroccan, and Latin bowls are among those served. “Right now, we are staying with a set menu but we have the ability to make new menu changes when we would like to,” Schlueter continued.
All bowls are designed to be as customizable as possible. Every single bowl has the ability to omit or add different ingredients. We tried very hard to limit allergies in our restaurant. Out of the big seven allergies, gluten is the only allergen that is in the robot and we made sure that the gluten had its own food path and its own special cooking wok so it won’t get mixed in. We do have dairy, nuts and fish but they are added after the robot completes the meal.” he said.
On opening day, May 3, there was a line out the door, according to Schlueter. Spyce Restaurant is located at 241 Washington Street at Downtown Crossing area by Pi Alley and a five-minute walk from Government center and Park Street T stops.