‘Real World’ Lessons: Semblr at Ocado
01 August 2022
Installing our /Semblr automated meal assembly system at Ocado’s Head Office – and providing fresh, personalised lunches for the 4,000 employees who work there – was a big moment for Karakuri. After years of hard work (not to mention some pandemic-driven delays), we were ready to take on the challenge of our first ‘real world’ trial.

/Semblr offers a new category of personalized food dispensing by combining robotics and AI to deliver a wide range of meal types and portion sizes. This enables restaurants to deliver more customer choice and increased throughout while reducing food wastage. Once installed in Ocado’s employee canteen, /Semblr served 6 house bowls, with 17 ingredients that could be fully customised to craft each customer’s perfect lunch.

In just 8 months, /Semblr created and served more than 3000 Asian-inspired rice bowls to Ocado employees. This was a critical trial program for us and created a strong partnership between Karakuri and Atalian Servest, who run the catering offering at Ocado HQ. Together, we were able to track ordering habits, test machine reliability, and assess exactly how intelligent robotics coexist with human coworkers. We threw /Semblr into the deep end and put it to the test from Day One – and it didn’t disappoint!
Feedback is Important
Ocado is an innovative company, known for its game-changing food delivery service as well as its use and development of robotics. We knew that Ocado employees would be the perfect people to offer us constructive feedback.

From the beginning, we made sure everyone knew of the potential challenges that come with technology innovations like /Semblr. We also ensured they understood how much we valued their honest feedback. In return, they gave us hundreds of ratings, comments, and suggestions that we reviewed and implemented as the trial progressed.
People Remember the Food
Technology is what makes /Semblr work, but the food is what people will remember, so our menu choice was a key factor for a successful trial. We worked closely with Atalian Servest to ensure that all menu choices were of the best quality and complimented each other when combined.

Phase 1 of the trial ran for 4 months. We served our first menu and learned a great deal based on employee feedback as well as our insight into their ordering habits. For example, we learned very quickly we needed to increase sauce quantity for certain meals, based on the number of customers requesting extra sauce. We also received a lot of feedback on the Chicken Katsu rice bowl, which was by far the most popular protein/sauce option, with many people letting us know they would welcome a low-carb version of their favorite meal.

In Phase 2 of the trial, we refreshed our menu, adding pork to see if it could rival chicken as a popular protein. We also added a Thai Green Curry sauce to see if it could dethrone the popular Katsu sauce. The biggest change we made was based on direct customer feedback: we added a low-carb, healthy grain alternative to rice for the base of the Chicken Katsu bowl. We also reworked all of the sauces to lower the calories, knowing that people were keen to have more sauce in their bowls.
Integration & Interoperability
While the /Semblr trial launched with our own ordering app, we also wanted to try out a third-party ordering app to test the ease of integration and interoperability with /Semblr.

Vita Mojo and their award-winning digital ordering and restaurant management system were chosen as the ideal solution. So, when it came time to refresh the menu for Phase 2 of the trial, we seamlessly switched from our in-house ordering system to Vita Mojo’s with no interruption to ordering. Vita Mojo are now Karakuri: Robot Ready certified, which ensures seamless integration of their software with all of our solutions.
Lessons Learned
One of the things we are most proud of is the fact that /Semblr achieved 100% uptime, serving lunch every scheduled weekday, without fail. We also learned a great deal about what does – and doesn’t – work for automated meal assembly systems:

- Personalisation is popular. 45% of people started their orders with the ‘create your own’ bowl option, showing that customers loved to start from scratch and craft their own bowl.

- Everyone loves Chicken Katsu Curry. It comes as no surprise, but Chicken Katsu curry was by far the most popular menu choice, with over 1000 bowls including both menu choices.

- Vegetarian, Vegan Friendly, and Low Carb options are appreciated. /Semblr is all about choice, so we were pleased that our vegetarian, vegan-friendly and low-carb options were so popular. Over 500 bowls included tofu as the primary protein.

- Feedback is everything. Testing /Semblr in a real-world setting has taught us so much about how smart kitchen robotics, human coworkers, and customers co-exist. Hundreds of people filled in our feedback form, and this information informed all of our technical updates.

- Food quality and taste is what people remember. As cool as it is to say your lunch was made by a robot, the food is what people will remember, and the feedback proved this. And thanks to our partnership with Atalian Servest, our food was consistently top quality.

/SEMBLR was a huge success at Ocado, and now we’re focused on incorporating all the lessons learned into our next-generation solution. We can’t wait to share this journey with you.