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08/23/2022

Mezli Launches Fully Autonomous Restaurant

Mezli will be celebrating the grand opening of its fully autonomous robotic restaurant, located in the Spark Social food park in San Francisco, on August 28.
Anna Wolfe
Senior Editor - Restaurants
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Mezli exterior
Because robotic Mezli restaurants are small and cheaper to build, they can be deployed in a wider range of locations, at a smaller carbon footprint.

Mezli will be celebrating the grand opening of its fully autonomous robotic restaurant, located in the Spark Social food park in San Francisco, on August 28.

Mezli's serves a full hot menu to customers without requiring any human intervention. The menu includes Mediterranean grain bowls starting at $6.99, plus sides and drinks.

How it Works

Customers order from touchscreen kiosks and pick up their orders at smart lockers, all of which are on the exterior of the unit, which measures about 250 square feet, a Mezli spokesperson tells HT. Customers are able to scan QR codes to track the status of their orders on their phones.  Currently there's only takeout.  There's ample outdoor seating provided at Spark Social.  

Zero full-time humans are required on site. During regular operations, Mezli employees just need to periodically restock, clean, and do maintenance on the restaurant, which only takes a few hours a day or less.  

Mezli was founded by a team of Stanford engineers: Alex Kolchinski, Alex Gruebele, and Max Perham. As graduate students at Stanford, Mezli's founders found that they had no nearby food options that were convenient, affordable and healthy. Putting their technical backgrounds to use, they teamed up with Michelin-star chef Eric Minnich to solve the problem with a combination of robotic and culinary innovation.

East vs. West

If this is starting to sound familiar, Mezli has a similar origin story as Spyce, a robotic kitchen concept created by four Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT grads) that had chef Daniel Boulud  as Culinary Advisor. Spyce raised $21M in 2018 and relaunched its off-prem concept in Boston 2019.  Then, a year ago, sweetgreen struck a deal to buy Spyce.

In January 2021, the team behind Mezli started full-time work on the concept while participating in the Y Combinator startup accelerator and working out of the Kitchentown food innovation center. Last year, the team opened a pop-up restaurant, built a prototype robot, and brought on a number of employees, investors, including roboticist Pieter Abbeel and restaurateur Zaid Ayoub, and advisors, including Charles Bililies of Souvla.

After the launch at Spark Social, the Mezli team plans to expand to multiple locations while also widening the culinary options available through the Mezli platform. Because robotic Mezli restaurants are smaller and cheaper to build than traditional fast-casual restaurants, they can be deployed in a wider range of locations, at a smaller carbon footprint per location, while serving fresh, healthy meals at a low price point. It's exactly that offering that Mezli's team plans to eventually make available nationwide.

Images courtesy of Mezli

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Mezli food cubby
Guests order their food from the touchscreen kiosks and pick up their order at these smart lockers. All are on the exterior of our unit.