Aniai, an innovative tech startup focused on revolutionizing the restaurant industry with robotic solutions, has successfully raised $12 million in funding, bringing its total funding to $15 million. The new funds will be utilized to establish its first manufacturing facility, Factory One, in South Korea, and to deploy a cloud-based AI software platform called Alpha Cloud for its burger-grilling robot, Alpha Grill.
The adoption of robotics in the restaurant business is gaining popularity as it addresses critical challenges such as labor shortages and rising wage issues. According to research, robotics can help restaurants save 30% to 70% of labor costs, potentially replacing more than 80% of restaurant positions.
Aniai’s Alpha Grill, a double-sided robot launched in 2022, can cook 200 patties per hour or eight patties simultaneously with the assistance of human staff placing them on the grill. The robot significantly reduces the need for kitchen staff, allowing restaurants to engage only one staff member for burger grilling, a task that typically requires six to eight staff members.
Factory One, set to launch this year, aims to meet the increasing market demand for Alpha Grill, with approximately 500 pre-orders for delivery starting in the first quarter of 2024. The manufacturing facility is designed to produce over 1,000 robots annually.
Alpha Grill incorporates cloud-based AI software and real-time vision sensors to perceive the cooking environment, identify patty colors, and monitor temperature, shape, and quality. If a patty fails to meet cooking specifications, Alpha Grill notifies the cooking staff for quality control.
Aniai is also developing its second product, Alpha Kitchen, scheduled for launch in 2025. Alpha Kitchen aims to automate the entire burger-making process, from cooking patties and toasting buns to dispensing vegetables and other ingredients.
The startup currently serves seven customers, including fast-food burger chains in South Korea, such as CJ Freshway, BAS Burger, and DownTowner. It has been testing Alpha Grill with burger chains in the U.S. since the previous year. The latest funding round, led by InterVest, along with new investors SV Investment, UK’s Ignite Innovation, and previous backer Capstone Partners, will also support Aniai’s expansion efforts in the U.S. and South Korea.
Aniai is part of the growing kitchen automation industry, joining companies like Miso Robotics, Botinkit in China, and Chef Robotics in San Francisco. Since its founding in 2020, the startup has grown to have 30 employees as of December 2023.