Four MIT mechanical engineering students were tired of spending $10 to $14 on takeout at restaurants near their college campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As they sat on overturned paint buckets, they determined there had to be a way to solve this problem. Maybe automating a restaurant to create cheaper food without losing the quality?
Fast forward to May 2018, Michael Farid, Kale Rogers, Luke Schlueter and Brady Knight found the answer and worked profusely to open the first location of Spyce in Downtown Boston. Robots are responsible for all in Spyce’s kitchen, from cooking and plating your custom meal to clean up.
Spyce serves dishes such as the $7.50 Korean bowl and the similarly priced Roma bowl, which clearly indicates the four accomplished their goal of a lower priced restaurant. Their idea attracted $24.8 million in funding from Maveron and Collaborative Fund. It also gained the attention of Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud, who has come on as an investor and advisor.
“Pretty much from day one, we were all more excited about building a restaurant than we were a technology company,” says Farid, the 27-year-old CEO. “We weren’t building this for anybody else, we were building this for ourselves.”
Rather than ordering from the traditional cashier, Spyce’s customers order from a kiosk, in which they can customize their bowls from a variety of cuisines, including Lebanese, Indian, Latin and Thai. Once the order is completed, the robotic kitchen gets to work, while customers can watch the robots drop each ingredient into the wok and cook the meal. From there, an actual human Spyce employee adds the finishing touches like whipped ricotta or cilantro, and then gives the bowl to the customer.
“We can serve you a really nice, creative meal each and every time,” says Rogers, who is the chief operating officer. “Your meal is cooked in front of you for you. I think that’s pretty powerful.”
Spyce’s Boston restaurant serves an average of 500 customers per day. Farid plans to open more Spyce locations in 2020 with the new capital gained from Khosla Ventures, Maveron and Collaborative Fund.
“The most important thing, honestly, is the food and the food quality,” Rogers says. “It’s not trying to make a certain genre cheaper. It’s trying to make the best food product that you can get in a fast-casual setting. And having to sell it at a more affordable price point.”