Think the ramen craze can’t get any more out of control? Think again. In Japan, some restaurants are experimenting with using robots instead of chefs that customers can watch prepare their meal. But as cool as that may sound, automating the ramen making experience doesn’t make dining out any cheaper. Quite the opposite actually: People are paying a premium to see their ramen prepared by a machine.
YouTube channel New China TV recently posted footage from Toyako Robot Ramen, a Shanghai restaurant that opened in December with two robot chefs named Kona and Toya that can whip up four different types of noodle soup with minimal assistance in just 90 seconds. The robots were originally designed for industrial purposes, but apparently they watched a bunch of Food Network and are now following their true passion.
Though automated employees have their obvious benefits – “They’ll never ask for leave and they won’t get sick,” said owner Liu Jin – they don’t come cheap. The duo cost around $150,000, an amount The Shanghaiist suggests is about the same as what the owner would have to pay two human chefs over the course of six years. So to cover his investment in the short term, Liu has to charge about $10 a bowl for his ramen, twice as much as some other local shops.
Is it worth the extra cost? “I’d like to have the ramen cooked longer for better flavor,” says a customer in the video. Looks like Kona and Toya are going to have to take to defend themselves on Yelp. Hopefully they have internet connectivity.