Start-ups to follow | Cala, the first robot that cooks pasta in the capital

Technology makes it possible to envisage the unthinkable: it would be entirely possible to build a chain where the end product at a consumer’s would never have crossed paths with a human from seeding to delivery. If it is still difficult to imagine today, it is taking shape for certain segments as Plenty proves with its fully automated salad production, or Cala with its pasta. Story of the birth of the robot of Ylan Richard, 24, who cooks on the Jussieu campus.

Then students in engineering school in Paris, Ylan Richard and Julien Drago decide to launch a crazy bet. That of reconciling “eating well” and at a low price, while minimizing the environmental and human impact. ” We were very sensitive to these subjects,” explains Ylan Richard. “But with a student budget, it is difficult to combine these values “. In the preparatory class, both students have a good understanding of automation concepts. Their idea: reduce the number of people in the kitchen to reduce costs and offer inexpensive meals. ” We realized that we could drastically reduce the cost of producing a meal. With this technological approach through robotic automation, we could manage to have a strong impact on food “. Thus is born Cala.

Ultra competitive prices

Ylan Richard and Julien Drago team up with Nicolas Barboni, and launch the machine, developing a robot capable of assembling the ingredients. A wave of recruitment in August 2019 in order to optimize the automaton to the maximum before hoping to open the restaurant, and the companions finally open in October 2020, a week before the second confinement. A timing that will not prevent the restaurant from being a hit. Open only to delivery, the concept finds its audience, unaware that the cooking is done by a robot. This opening was a bit of a blind test to see if people were going to make a difference because it’s a robot that prepares the meal “. A challenge successfully met, since the restaurant is very quickly well rated and classified. In September 2021, Cala opens to take away, close to the Jussieu campus of Sorbonne Universities, with the reopening of the university. A strategic location to reach a young audience. But goal for the robot “ pastaiolo »: cover all of Paris, with at least three more restaurants.

In restaurants, Cala’s robot is visible to customers. He can be seen working and preparing meals. ” As a guarantee of transparency, we wanted customers to be able to understand how it works and see their meal being prepared. Follow your meal from A to Z without taking your eyes off it », Analyzes Ylan Richard. The robot automates most of the steps, but the engineers are still developing the missing steps. In the world, only four restaurants use this concept of cooking robot. Two in the United States, and two in France. On the other hand, many are those who use the robot on the service part. To the question: why pasta? Ylan Richard simply replies: “ It is a safe bet. We knew the students were going to like it. Meat consumption was one of the points on which we reflected. Why ? Because pasta is one of the few meals on which even heavy meat eaters can eat vegetarian meals without realizing “. The Parisian entrepreneur is not looking to put on a culinary “show” with his robot, but rather to facilitate and automate catering. All at competitive prices, from 6 euros. Cala claims just under 25,000 orders since October 2020, for delivery on platforms (95% of turnover) and to take away.

Combine robots and traditional cuisine

The success of Cala proves that automation has a bright future ahead of it, and according to Ylan Richard, robots will soon arrive in restaurants. ” The pandemic has accelerated the movement. Restaurant owners have realized more than ever that this is a fragile business and they are trying to be resilient. Automation is an effective way “. The ambition of the 24-year-old entrepreneur for Cala is to open two more brands. Besides pasta, maybe salads or burgers, and having a restaurant on every continent. In 5 years, we would like to have opened in all the capitals of Europe with always this target: young people, students and young professionals “.

The pasta prepared by the Cala robot is intended to be ” healthy, gourmet, with organic ingredients and often sourced nearby “, insists the entrepreneur. And in Paris, it is the restaurant that invests the most in its ingredients in relation to the selling price. Everything is sourced locally and the majority of ingredients come from Île-de-France. Ylan Richard applies himself to sourcing, guaranteeing the quality of the meal. By favoring local and organic products, Cala emphasizes the human aspect, which paradoxically takes center stage. ” We chose to automate the painful part of the work: the repetitive tasks. We always favor the interesting stages and the relational aspects for the team “. A modern human adventure, therefore, which harmoniously links robots and traditional cuisine.

<<< Also read: How robots could reduce the gender pay gap? >>>

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