Majority of Americans Want to Try Food Cooked by Robots, Survey Says

Nala Robotics
Hygiene and Consistency Top Expected Dining Benefits; Younger Adults Hold More Favorable Views

Arlington Heights, Ill., May 18, 2022 – Fifty-eight percent of Americans have either eaten food cooked by a robot or would be interested in doing so, the latest example of changing attitudes regarding artificial intelligence outside everyday life, according to results from a national Xcelerant omnibus survey conducted on behalf of Nala Robotics, an AI technology company revolutionizing the culinary industry.

"It's encouraging such wide swaths of Americans are interested in the benefits of culinary automation," said Ajay Sunkara, cofounder and CEO, Nala Robotics, which will be demonstrating its autonomous robots at this year’s National Restaurant Association Show (Booth # 9402) at McCormick Place in Chicago from May 21-24. "Consumers are realizing that robots improve quality and food safety, while restaurants can increase productivity, lower costs and operate a kitchen anytime, anywhere."

Dining Experience Benefits

A majority of Americans (60 percent) say food cooked by a robot would be the same or better as a human, according to the survey. Respondents identified several other benefits at restaurants using robot chefs – some tied to pandemic-led precautions, others highlighting improvements in preparation and production. The top perceived dining benefits include:

  • Hygiene (contactless, human touch-free food handling) 58 percent
  • Consistency (no missing ingredients, dishes prepared as intended) 56 percent
  • Speed (food arrives quickly) 54 percent
  • Cost (less restaurant operational costs mean lower priced dishes) 45 percent
  • Cross-contamination (avoids spread of harmful bacteria and allergy-causing foods) 32 percent

Industry Wide Adoption

Respondents identified several examples of how robots could help combat systemic challenges in the restaurant industry, which has been decimated amid the pandemic and slower to recover than other sectors. Forty-two percent of survey respondents say robots help fill staffing shortages and 36 percent note they improve productivity. The survey also revealed that a vast majority of Americans (70 percent) believe robots will have either a positive or neutral effect on the future of the restaurant industry. As awareness grows, so does consumer sentiment. Nearly seven out of 10 (69 percent) Americans who are aware of robots in restaurants have either eaten food cooked by a robot or are interested in doing so. Among that same cohort, 68 percent of respondents indicated food cooked by a robot would be better or comparable to food cooked by a human.

Restaurant automaton goes well beyond robots that cook food. Americans surveyed ranked several other tasks acceptable for robots:

  • Dishwasher (59 percent)
  • Cashier (40 percent)
  • Server/waiter (32 percent)
  • Delivery/courier (29 percent)
  • Host/hostess (27 percent)

“Artificial intelligence is inevitable and will continue to revolutionize the way restaurants operate, especially as awareness and consumer education grows,” added Sunkara. “Our survey reveals there are huge benefits and opportunities when it comes to robot automation in the culinary industry. We have seen our own fully automated chefs reduce labor costs by as much as 60 percent, helping address the ongoing staffing shortages affecting the food and hospitality sectors across the country.”

A Digital Divide

While a majority of respondents indicated interest in eating food cooked by a robot (52 percent), younger adults signaled a much stronger desire. Interest peaked among Millennials (62 percent), followed by Gen Z (58 percent) and Gen X (54 percent). Baby Boomers were among the most resistant, with only 39 percent interested in trying food cooked by a robot.

About the Survey

The Xcelerant omnibus survey was conducted from May 5 to May 6, 2022 by Directions Research among a demographically balanced nationally representative sample of 1,042 U.S. adults 18 years of age and older, weighted by age, gender, geographic region, race and education. Generations defined as: Generation Z (ages 18-25), Millennials (ages 26-41), Generation X (ages 42-57) and Baby Boomers (ages 58-76).

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