A pasta restaurant with a robot chef opens in Tokyo

Original Japanese text written by. Ryuki Ishii
Translated by. Nick Mosier

Restaurant chain Pronto are set to open their first エビノスパゲッティ(E Vino Spaghetti) restaurant in Tokyo’s Marunouchi Building on June 30. The restaurant will mainly serve pasta and alcohol, but what really sets it apart is that the pasta will be prepared by an automated robot, Business Insider and Impress Watch reports.

The menu is made up of 8 different types of pasta from spaghetti aglio to carbonara, and everything from boiling the noodles (thawing frozen pasta), cooking, and cleaning the frying pan will be handled by a robot called P-Robo. With AI image recognition, the robot can also check for mistakes such as a dish containing the wrong ingredients or sauces.

With its specifically developed frying pan and high-powered induction heating, the company says a dish can be cooked in around 45 to 75 seconds. Taking the food from the pan and arranging it on the plate is the only part of the process handled by humans. The price of each dish is set at around a reasonable 1,000 yen (roughly $7.35).

* Business Insider Japan – E Vino Spaghetti restaurant

P-Robo was developed by the cooking robot tech startup TechMagic. According to Impress Watch, ROS (Robot Operating System) was used for development as they made use of an already existing library combined with independently developed features. After four years of research, they say they are approaching taste that’s on par with an actual chef.

Business Insider, who attended a sampling event for the pasta, said it was on a level that they wouldn’t doubt it if they were told it was made by a human. They were also surprised that it was prepared in roughly one minute. However, due to mechanical trouble, the robot temporarily stopped running during the event causing a delay. To prepare for this kind of trouble, the company says maintenance staff will be permanently stationed once the restaurant opens.

Pronto says they look to expand use of the robot to around 50 restaurants in the next 5 years. They also want to supply P-Robo robots to other companies. TechMagic CEO Yuji Shiraki told Impress Watch, “In the realm of self-driving cars, countries like the United States and China lead the industry, but in the world of cooking robots, Japan can compete by combining its manufacturing and food culture.”

Pronto says of P-Robo, “with overwork and shortage of workers in the food industry, along with the issue of training personnel, we think P-Robo can be part of the solution to these problems.” In Japan, there’s concern of a worker shortage due to the shrinking population. Automated cooking robots like P-Robo will likely continue to gain attention as a way to reduce the manpower required to operate restaurants.

Besides P-Robo, TechMagic is also developing a tableware sorting robot called W-Robo and a drink serving robot called D-Robo.