Anyone who has ever washed dishes in a restaurant knows only too well how sweaty, grimy, and tiring the task can be. That’s one of the reasons why an increasing number of eateries are finding it so hard to hire people for the position.
Keen to discover whether automation could be effectively applied to the task, entrepreneur and robotics fanatic Linda Pouliot spent some time in a restaurant kitchen washing dishes herself.
After a grueling shift that left her hands “red and blotchy from being submerged in scalding, soapy water, and my clothes and hair [smelling] of grease,” Pouliot felt sufficiently motivated to move forward with her idea to create a robot dishwasher.
Four years on, and now as CEO and founder of Silicon Valley-based Dishcraft, Pouliot and her team this week unveiled its very first effort designed primarily for large cafes and restaurants.
Dishcraft’s high-tech robot scrubs each item thoroughly and even scans each piece at the end of the process to ensure it’s sparkling clean. This is a marked improvement on regular dishwashers — and human pot washers — that don’t always catch all the grime, forcing busy staff to waste time performing a second, more meticulous clean.
As Dishcraft’s video shows, the procedure begins with staff piling up the plates on a cart. Once the cart is transferred to the robot, an automated arm grabs each plate and quickly scrubs it clean using a spinning brush and water, with no chemicals involved. At the end of the process, which only takes a few seconds, the robot’s sensors check for any leftover debris on the surface of the plate. The clean plates are placed onto a rack that exits the machine on rollers.
As The Spoon points out, Dishcraft’s robot can’t tackle glass or silverware, but the machine is fast, efficient, and thorough, suggesting it could play a useful role in eateries with rapid customer turnaround.
“We believe that robotics are going to change jobs, and they should,” Dishcraft says in a message on its website. “Washing dishes is dull, repetitive, and dirty work. The high churn and unfilled positions in the industry indicate this is an unpleasant task. That’s why we’re creating a happier workplace using technology and thoughtful processes.”
The company claims its robot dishwasher “will dramatically improve the way dishes in commercial kitchens are washed to provide a cleaner, safer, more environmentally-friendly experience while transforming the way kitchens are staffed.”
Dishcraft is testing a couple of service options — one where eateries can lease and install the robot on-site, and another that involves dish collection for washing away from the kitchen.
With robot wait staff and robot chefs already a thing, Dishcraft’s robot dishwasher appears to open up the possibility of a fully automated restaurant, though whether diners are ready for such an establishment is another matter entirely.