It’s business as usual at the canteen of a China Vanke (000002.CN) residential property in Shenzhen, but pop into the kitchen and you could get a whiff of the future. The company has deployed two robot chefs to work alongside human caterers, according to the China Securities Journal.
Minimum wages in China have been on the rise and while this boosts income and spending, not all companies can absorb the immediate costs. The Vanke kitchen is just the latest in a line of labor-intensive sectors to experiment with cost-cutting robotic devices.
The kitchen’s stir-fry robot chef works very much like the roller of a typical washing machine. Junior chefs feed ingredients into it one by one and the machine does the rest. A microprocessor allows for fine-tuning.
It’s No. 1 virtue is, of course, its lower cost. An experienced chef gets paid an average of about 60,000 yuan (US$9,756) a year in Shenzhen, the fourth-highest city on the mainland in terms of GDP. A robot chef costs just double that amount, the daily said. Two automated stir-fryers can cook up 200 servings in just 20 minutes, and while they pump out simple set menu fare, they free up human chefs to prepare more-complex premium dishes.
Another advantage is the standardization of quality. Ingredients are fed into the machines under strict quantity guidelines and the stir-fry time is preset.
Japan has been a frontrunner in using robots in fast food chains in the quest for efficiency and unified taste. China may go down the same path. The low-cost, mass-production model could be the key to winning market share in the growing casual dining market for Chinese cuisine.
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