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Frequently asked questions

Answers to the questions we’re asked most. If your query isn’t covered here please contact us.

What is Karakuri?

The name Karakuri was taken from the 16th Century Japanese autonomous dolls. These automatons were designed to surprise and delight dinner guests – which is precisely what we as a business strive to do.

Karakuri is a UK-based technology company dedicated to designing, manufacturing, and installing robotic automation systems for restaurants, commercial kitchens and caterers.

Karakuri was founded in February 2018 by Simon Watt and Barney Wragg, two longtime friends and colleagues who originally worked together at ARM in the nineties.

In April 2018 Founders Factory invested in Karakuri, and Brent Hoberman joined the board as Chairman. Together, Brent, Simon, and Barney have built Karakuri into a company dedicated to turning innovative ideas into viable solutions.

Why is Karakuri special?

Karakuri technology is unique because it combines leading-edge robotics with machine learning, industrial automation, and embedded computing. We believe that by harnessing these technologies we can help to:

  • Improve the food people eat, by helping them to tailor meals to their exact dietary requirements
  • Improve the working environment in kitchens and restaurants
  • Reduce food waste and minimize the impact on the environment
  • Move away from pre-packaged foods and plastics

How did the idea for Karakuri come about?

The initial idea for Karakuri came from the emergence of lower-cost robotics and machine learning systems. We realized that these could be adapted into the restaurant and catering sector to help solve common industry challenges.

What problem is it that Karakuri is trying to solve?

Karakuri was born out of a market need to update and transform the ready-to-eat meal market. There has been no shortage of press stories about failing restaurant chains, and the pressures around working environments and food quality.

Karakuri’s technologies are designed to address these problems and providing tangible benefits for the food producers, restaurateurs, kitchen and restaurant staff, and of course the consumer.

Have you trialled the Karakuri system? If so, What results have you seen so far?

We’re currently in prototype and testing. No public demonstrations are yet available.

Where do you plan to launch Karakuri?

We develop products to address the global restaurants and catering market, so we plan to offer our solutions globally.

When will Karakuri go live in the market?

We expect to deploy our first live systems in 2019.

What restaurants and retailers have you been talking to?

Our discussions with customers and potential customers are strictly confidential, so we cannot discuss any of these negotiations.

By automating the food service industry, aren’t you putting people out of a job?

Not at all. There is a significant and growing issue between the demand for ready-to-eat food and the rising cost of its production. At the moment this is resulting in an increasing number of restaurants folding, and those that remain are left with the dilemma of either increasing their prices or reducing the quality of food and service they deliver.

In addition to the above, consumers are demanding an ever-more customized range of ready-to-eat food. They are becoming increasingly aware of the link between what they eat and their ongoing health and wellness. Consumers are requesting meals that meet their specific diet and wellness objectives, which is creating increased demand for user-specific or customized meals. Customized meals cannot be made in mass production: they require individual assembly, which can put such meals out of the price range of most consumers.

Karakuri’s technology balances the consumer’s demands with the available workforce and restaurateurs’ margins. Long-term, we believe the market for ready-to-eat meals will grow and create more employment opportunities.

We’ve seen robots in food service for some time, how is Karakuri different?

Most robots so far have been deployed in mass production factories. Karakuri’s technology is different because it uses smart systems that enable intelligent robotics to undertake a much wider range of tasks, making them suitable for deployment in lower order volume environments such as restaurant kitchens.

Who are your competitors? How are you different?

Robotic meal preparation is a new and nascent market. There are a small number of companies addressing the market around the world. Each company has its own approach and uses specific technologies. By combining leading-edge robotics with machine learning, industrial automation, and embedded computing, we are providing a unique solution to some of the common challenges in the catering market.

Is this not another example of customization gone mad?

We don’t believe that customization has gone mad.

A rapidly increasing number of people are actively using personal fitness and health trackers, and adapting their behaviour to increase their physical activity and improve their nutrition. A growing number of people are “closing the loop” between their activity and diet, to help them improve their overall wellness. This is a growing trend driven by technology’s ability to help us to measure influencing factors. It stands to reason that as we learn more about our bodies’ response to activity and particular food types, we will want to be more prescriptive about the food we eat to meet our wellness goals.

What does Karakuri mean for food retailers?

Karakuri presents an opportunity for food retailers, restaurants, bars, and cafes to offer freshly-made over pre-packaged meals. This improves the quality of the meal, allows the consumer to choose their ingredients more closely, reduces shipping and storage costs (both financial and environmental), and allows for more environmentally-friendly packing.

What are the benefits to the consumer?

The consumer is able to select and purchase a cost-effective meal that has been made to order with ingredients they have specified to meet their individual dietary requirements.

Why are you targeting the fast food market?

Karakuri’s technologies can be used in all sectors of the restaurant and catering markets. The company is addressing healthy food in the fast casual sector as a priority, as this sector is currently most actively seeking customer-facing solutions.

How does Karakuri’s technology work?

We combine the following technologies to deliver the features of Karakuri’s systems:

  • Robotics
  • Soft robotics
  • Industrial food processing
  • Real-time sensing
  • Machine learning
  • Distributed and embedded computing

Do you build your technology end-to-end, or do you use third parties?

We use a combination of third party and in-house technologies. Typically we use robotic arms sourced from third party manufacturers, but most of the other hardware we use is bespoke. All of the software used in our systems is developed by Karakuri.

How is the advisory board working to help build Karakuri?

Karakuri is very privileged to have advisors from ARM, Ocado, Imperial College London, Bristol Robotics Lab, and Edinburgh Centre for Robotics. These advisors help shape the research and development plans of Karakuri, and provide a critical connection to state -of-the-art research across the UK.

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Meet our Robots

DK-One lower throughput food preparation robot from Karakuri-

DK-One

DK-One is the world’s first robotic solution for high throughput, fast turnaround, 100% individualized and portion-controlled mass production.

Designed for high volume applications such as restaurants, cafeterias, and central kitchens, every meal produced by DK-One is individually prepared to each customer’s specific requirements.

Learn more

Marley lower throughput food preparation robot from Karakuri set up for pick'n'mix candy

Marley

Marley is the lower cost, lower throughput alternative to DK-One, providing customization on a smaller scale.

Offering the same level of customer configuration as DK-One, Marley can be utilized for novel applications such as robotic candy dispensing, custom-made ice creams, and cocktails.

Learn more

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