An award-winning Boston restaurant run by robots

Last night, my sister and I went out to dinner at one of Boston’s newest restaurants, Spyce, which opened five days ago. Via a large touch screen, I keyed in my order — part of a menu with fully customizable options for people with allergies or special diets — paid with credit card, and received notification that my meal request was received. Enthusiastic Spyce employees stood nearby to provide help and advice during the ordering process.

I turned towards the kitchen, where a series of seven cooking woks hanging from the wall waited at attention. My name flashed in a circular console — “Now cooking Indian Bowl for LilyB” — and a pot pivoted forwards and began cooking my meal. After cooking time was completed, about three minutes, a device pushed my bowl to an area under the pot, which turned downwards and neatly poured my meal into the bowl.

A human “garde manger” (French for “keeper of the food”) added garnishes to my bowl, asked me if I wanted any additional toppings, and then handed my dinner to me with a smile.

After cooking, the robotic kitchen automatically cleans and sanitizes its woks without human assistance.

We talked to Michael Farid, a co-founder and Spyce’s CEO, who briefly described his company’s trajectory as initially born out of a dream by MIT researchers and engineers. Farid himself has a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and robotics research experience. Now, he’s also getting his hands dirty with the business and operations side of things and visits the restaurant to listen to customer feedback. Spyce is eager to “learn from [its] customers,” he told me as he and his employees passed out survey sheets to diners.

The food was tasty and affordable, the ingredients mostly locally sourced. Much of the menu was shaped by award-winning celebrity chef Daniel Boulud and his protege Sam Benson. I found my Indian bowl — brown rice, yogurt, roasted chicken, potatoes, peas, and tamarind and date chutney — flavorful and satisfying.

Spyce addresses the ultimate question in their FAQs: “So you’re cutting jobs?”

Their answer: “Well it’s a new model so we are not ‘cutting’ jobs, but our restaurant does have fewer employees than your typical quick service restaurant. The employees that we do have, we pay well. The aim of this venture was to make tasty nutritious food affordable, and we do that by being as efficient as possible.”

Dinner was indeed quick, healthy, and delicious. My sister and I will be back.

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