Thursday, June 28, 2018

I just stumbled into SF's exclusive burger joint of the future... and got to try it out! Pt 1 of 2


On the way to work this morning, I was reading an SF Chronicle article about a new burger place that  had opened up. What was interesting here was that it was apparently the latest foodtech startup to capitalize on a growing trend of automation. Over the years, we've seen many aspects of retail food become automated: payments, delivery, even service. But has there ever been a solid effort to create an end-to-end food preparation, and further, one that took on the venerable burger (the quintessential, go-to American food)?

Well, the folks at Creator are giving it a shot. While I'll admit that I hadn't heard of them before reading the Chronicle article this morning, I was immediately fascinated by the concept. As SF locals can attest, it's hard to find a retail outlet in the SF Bay Area that doesn't have a "help wanted" sign displayed. The cost of labor around here has skyrocketed, and any solution to the madness — an autonomous burger chef for example — would be a godsend.

Before I finished reading, one final detail caught my eye. The location of Creator was only a block away from my office. I made a mental note to check it out one day soon. One day soon apparently meant today, the very same day.

Now, as the Chronicle had made it abundantly clear, the restaurant hadn't really opened to the general public. Instead, they were in the middle of a soft-soft opening — a public beta, if you will. Those interested could try their luck at signing up for tickets, but the only time slots that were offered were two months away, and even those were on a "waitlist" basis. Oh well, I thought, I'd still be able to gawk at it from outside at least.

I went for a midday walk with a coworker, and approached the restaurant. There were two representatives outside, cheerfully greeting ticket holders and gently turning away those less fortunate. Always the curious critter, I posed a few questions to one of the representatives about their company and what they wanted to do with this concept. It was interesting for me to compare them to a neighbor at our previous office, eatsa, who developed another futuristic food concept involving healthy food and automated pickup.

A couple minutes into the conversation, to my surprise, we were asked if we wanted to try it (we had early established that my coworker and I were not among the lucky ticket holders). After a second of two sheer bewilderment, we jumped at the chance to go in... never mind we both already had lunch earlier and had originally planned to walk off a few calories.

What awaited us inside was like a fantasyland of food science, served with a side of Heinz ketchup. Here's a video of the machine in action:

Detailed shots and a review of the burger, in the 2nd half.

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