Dexai Robotics’ Alfred Acts as Sous Chef at Boston BONAPITA Restaurant

Dexai's small-business debut at Mediterranean fast-casual chain addresses ongoing labor shortages.

Business Wire

Dexai's Afred consists of an AI-driven cobot arm and machine vision system.
Dexai Robotics, which designed its Alfred collaborative robot to be adaptable with AI and computer vision, is rolling out the food-preparation system to a fast-casual site in Massachusetts.

Dexai Robotics today announced the installation of its Alfred food-preparation robot at a BONAPITA restaurant in West Roxbury, Mass. The startup said the deployment demonstrates the potential of automation for small businesses and fast-casual chains.

A robotics-as-a-service (RaaS) business model, in which customers are only charged a flat fee for each dish the robot prepares, enables Dexai to serve a diverse customer base, according to David Johnson, CEO of the Boston-based company.

“Robots have come a long way from the days of massive, multi-million-dollar machines and complex, purpose-built installations,” he said. “Not only is Alfred compact and easy to install, but also the cost scales with your business.”

“And while our operating model makes Alfred more accessible financially, our use of advanced AI and computer vision make the robot highly adaptable,” added Johnson. “So, Alfred is able to work in practically any commercial kitchen, and adapts to your existing menu, even if that changes seasonally.”

Dexai designs Alfred to be adaptable

Spinning out of The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc. in 2018, Dexai said it is “developing market-ready, scalable robotics and AI solutions to address real-world needs.” Co-founders Johnson and Anthony Tayoun designed Alfred to be able to prepare food in any existing kitchen.

Alfred uses artificial intelligence and computer vision to identify and manipulate a wide array of food items and kitchen utensils. It uses a collaborative robot arm to prepare salads, bowls, and other meals without any alteration to a restaurant’s layout or recipes, said Dexai.

The company claimed that its technology can improve operating efficiencies and alleviate persistent labor shortages affecting the food industry. In addition, Alfred can ensure the consistency of prepared foods, reduce food waste, and reduce the transmission of food-borne pathogens, it said.

Hyperplane Venture Capital led Dexai's $5.5 million oversubscribed seed round in March 2020. Rho Capital, Harlem Capital, Contour Venture Partners, and NextView Ventures also contributed to the financing.

Dexai is working with the U.S. Department of Defense on installing 10 Alfred robots in military bases across the country.

AI helps robot learn BONAPITA menu

AI allows “smart” robots such as Alfred to continuously learn, adapt, and improve performance in the field, said Dexai. Since the BONAPITA deployment is Alfred’s first job at a Mediterranean restaurant, the robot is adapting its behavior and learning from Chef Ilan Barniv how to make his recipes.

Over time, Alfred will become faster and more precise, and it can even learning new tasks in Chef Ilan’s kitchen, said the company.

In addition, Dexai noted that the progress made by one Alfred robot is shared across every other unit, in both existing and future deployments. This feature could be particularly advantageous in the restaurant industry, where high turnover rates force employees to learn multiple tasks.

”We’re very excited to have Alfred in our kitchen,” said Barniv, owner of BONAPITA. “We had to find alternative solutions following two-plus years of extreme employee shortages. The installation was quick, and it’s very easy to use. We didn’t have to remodel or change the layout of the kitchen. And most importantly, we didn’t have to alter our menu.” 

“This is what the future of food service looks like,” he said. “Soon, we’ll see intelligent machines like Alfred integrated throughout the kitchen environment, performing a wide variety of tasks and functions. By using a robot, we free up our employees to focus on the customer experience, orchestrating a consistently delicious dining experience that customers can trust and love.”

BONAPITA’s location at 75 Spring Street in West Roxbury is now open to the public. Customers can see Alfred in action from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and they can visit for pickup or delivery. 

Dexai Robotics said its team taught Alfred to cook steak in just one day.

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Business Wire

Dexai's Afred consists of an AI-driven cobot arm and machine vision system.

Robot Technologies