Pulmuone provides culinary robot for stir-fried dishes to highway rest stop

By Kim Joo-heon Posted : February 23, 2024, 14:24 Updated : February 26, 2024, 14:23
Courtesy of Pulmuone
[Courtesy of Pulmuone Food & Culture]

SEOUL -- Pulmuone Food & Culture, the cafeteria service management wing of Seoul-based food company Pulmuone, has deployed robot chefs that can cook eight stir-fried dishes, such as fried rice, to a highway rest stop in Ansan, located in the southwest of the capital city. Using ingredients provided by human chefs, the culinary robots automatically perform cooking tasks, such as pouring oil into pans and adjusting the heat.

Pulmuone Food & Culture said its robot called "Robot Wok" was adopted at the Ansan Service Complex on the Yeongdong Expressway to reduce the workload of human cooks. Currently, two Robot Woks are in operation, with each capable of cooking about 25 servings per hour. "We will continue to try hard to integrate digital technology at various highway rest stops so that customers can have convenient and enjoyable experiences," Pulmuone Food & Culture CEO Lee Dong-hoon said in a statement on February 23.

At the rest stop, the food service provider also established a delivery system where visitors can receive Korean seaweed rice roll Gimbap through a pipe-like pneumatic tube. After a customer orders a mini gimbap on the first floor of the rest area, they are placed into capsules and sent down through a tube from the second floor. Pulmuone Food & Culture also set up a 24-hour unmanned robot cafe operated by artificial intelligence-based baristas.

According to data released by market research firm Market and Market, the global food robotics market is projected to increase to $4 billion by 2026 from $1.9 billion in 2020. Pulmuone has earlier developed a food cooking machine capable of cooking refrigerated dishes in about 90 seconds. The smart vending machine can also create plant-based Bulgogi Deopbap, a rice bowl topped with Korean-style barbecued marinated meat alternatives. Anyone can choose their menu through a touchscreen. 

Despite concerns about potential job displacement for human chefs, the trend of incorporating robot chefs is steadily growing in South Korea. Since the beginning of the second semester of 2023, Soonggok Middle School in Seoul has utilized four robots for frying, stir-frying, soup and rice cooking, and ingredient addition. The robot chefs were used to prepare meals for 645 students last year.  

South Korea's expressway operator is currently demonstrating three robot chefs at a rest stop in the eastern city of Wonju. One of them can complete instant noodles, known as Ramyeon, in less than five minutes. Depending on the test run results, the Korea Expressway Corporation will decide whether to expand robot chefs to rest areas across the country.
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