The latest food to stand in line for in San Francisco? Robot-made sandwiches at Dolores Park. This afternoon’s line formed as two engineers and one culinary chef set up their Bistro Bot and started churning out PB&J’s and nutella and fruit sandwiches with various garnishes.
Jay Reppert and Hamid Sani, the two engineers of the robot, and Steve Ilttell, a chef, are just three of the five members of the Philadelphia-born company Bistro Bots, which is now situated on 5th and Howard Streets. This is the company’s first time showcasing their sandwich-making robot, which drew thirty or so people in to gather around and watch.
At around 4:00 p.m., a wrench in the sandwich works developed. Sandwich production was stalled for about 15 minutes due to what Reppert called a “technical difficulty:” The robot could no longer sense the sandwich box, rendering it unable to pick it up and move it to the conveyer belt as it should.
“The pressure is building,” said Ilttell. “If this doesn’t work I’m going to have to end up making sandwiches for everybody.”
“It was working earlier today,” remarked Reppert.
Reppert then decided to manually place the sandwich boxes on the belt, to aid the crowd’s demand for PB&Js
The grip doesn’t work, so sandwiches go in manually, but made by robot pic.twitter.com/4pRjNGnlyY
— Mission Local (@MLNow) July 3, 2015
According to Reppert, the company’s main goal is to improve fast food by making it not only “faster” but also “cleaner.”
The robot, according to Ilttell, can make about six sandwiches in a minute, and one single machine can be more productive than five or six people.
Unlike some street food makers, the robot doesn’t need a health permit as long as Bistro Bots is giving them away for free. Reppert said the company reached out to the health department before their field trip and got the go ahead.
Sani, who has a PH.D from University of Utah in Robotics, was the main engineer for the robot, with assistance from Reppert.
“It’s harder than it looks,” said Sani.
The goal for today, according to Reppert, was solely to get feedback from the public.
“With successful testing we hope to do this more and make a company out of it,” said Reppert.