Food by VICE

The Future Is Here and It's Robots Who Make Ramen in 90 Seconds

Koya and Kona are the names of two robots who are the chefs at Toyako Robot Ramen, a new Japanese ramen restaurant in Shanghai.

by Alex Swerdloff
Jan 15 2016, 4:00pm

In the glimmering future, just how much will humanity rely on robotics and artificial intelligence to prepare its sustenance? Will our metallic minions get their Logan's Run on and simply freeze the shit out of any and all animals so that we can feast on their icicle-covered meat? Maybe you're more partial to Sylvester Stallone's Judge Dredd, and you believe tomorrow's dining rooms will be littered with food-dispensing robots whose only goal is for you to feast on their recycled bounty.

There are still countless questions as to how we will implement robotics in future of the food industry, but in the meantime, some are already employing the computerized workhorses of tomorrow.

Koya and Kona are the names of two robots who are the chefs at Toyako Robot Ramen, a new Japanese ramen restaurant in Shanghai. The robots can't quite make an entire bowl of ramen—they evidently can't make noodes—but they are pretty good at boiling, serving, and pouring out the precise amount of soup in each bowl. Humans make the noodles and add the garnishes. Each bowl takes 90 seconds to make.

All of this comes at a pretty steep price. The two robots cost 1 million yuan or US $154,000, according to Liu Jin, the owner of the restaurant. This might seem like a lot of money, but think of it this way: That's the same amount it would cost Liu to hire two human chefs and employ them for six years, according to the Shanghai Daily.

Also, the robots are bringing people into the store. They help justify the high price tag on Toyako's ramen: 58 yuan per bowl, or US $8.80, which is twice the price of a popular local chain.

Customers are clamoring to see the robots in action. Qu Lanying told Shanghai Daily, "I'll bring my granddaughter next time. She would love the robots."

Still, although Toyako serves four types of ramen—seafood, fried fish, beef, and pork—the robots are only involved in making the beef dish.

One robotics fan was not impressed. Cao Yan said, "I was a little disappointed as I expected the noodles would also be made by robots." Nevertheless, he says, "I think more robots will be seen in restaurants in the future."

We think so, too. Witness the ramen restaurant owner's thoughts on the bots: "You don't get any problems with robots. They'll never ask for leave and they won't get sick."

And that, folks, is why us meatbags might just become last year's model not too long from now.