Core77 Design Awards
- Other Years
Creator makes better food available to more people. Our human-centric dining experience & robotics makes this possible.
Creator sources responsibly, artisanally produced ingredients not readily available at this price point. We practice culinary techniques near-impossible by hand. This is especially in contrast with high-volume, casual restaurants. But even upscale restaurants can't serve burgers with this methodology because of practical constraints. Whole cuts of source-identified, pastured brisket and chuck are ground and griddled to order; locally baked buns are sliced, toasted, and buttered to order; pickles, onions and tomatoes are sliced to order.
The menu offers collaborations with artistically-driven, well-known Chefs, whose creations most people do not have the opportunity to taste. Creator offer pairings and flavor profiles designed for guests to explore what they love about food and why.
Restaurant workers are free to step away from the griddle and into more creative and social roles. Creator makes space for creative service at a time when service roles and service experiences are declining, as the restaurant industry faces razor-thin profit margins and labor shortages. But for Creator, the point of robotics is not to minimize staff. The point is to leverage newfound space for rethinking every step of the guest experience.
Guests have space for conversations while ordering to identify their own best burger. Rather than guests lining up for one cashier behind a counter and screen, and feeling pressured to not ask questions, our staff are free to roam, inviting guests to discuss menu choices. This encourages more natural and fluid ordering - and more rewarding interactions for staff.
All this shrinks the opportunity gap, upending cultural dichotomies between upscale and casual dining experiences.
Transparency is offered in new ways. Guests see their burger buns and toppings sliced up close; transparent refrigerators holding whole ingredients are a seamless part of the dining room. Automation once made our food system less transparent and more impersonal. We've retooled automation to provide and mean the opposite: greater trust in how our food is made.
The dining room enables guests to focus on food and people they are with. No noisy, distracting menu signage, no fast food upselling aesthetics. Our dining room provides respite and inspiration, and a place to indulge one's curiosity.
Popular culture paints a foreboding narrative for robotics. Fast food tropes precede us too, especially where automation and food intersect. After all, the artisanal, locavore food movement put automation in the crosshairs for compromising the quality of our food. This legitimate backlash against the industrialization of our food system has been widely rallied around since the 1970's, reaching a fever pitch in mainstream consciousness circa 2009. Yet, Creator's efficiency expands access for more consumers to support artisanal food producers and culinary creativity.
Creator represents the first composed dish produced start to finish by robotics. No humans are interspersed between robotic subsystems, stuck performing functions in the line that happen to be difficult to engineer, as is common in food automation. Creator is at the forefront of robotics of any kind in public spaces, and has already touched thousands.
RESTAURANT INTERIOR & THE CULINARY DEVICE: A redefinition of burger joint aesthetics
Use of natural materials and organic, curved, flowing forms. Copper, ash wood and live edges echo the robot. Plants and greenery are abundant - biophilia is an inspiration. Daytime lighting is natural and bright; nighttime lighting hangs from the curved ceiling, arranged in the Fibonacci spiral, a reference to this sequence in the natural world.
Colors are warm, textured, and subtle, so food pops. Food is the only subject with primary colors. Two exceptions: a floor-to-ceiling mural, also a reflection of Fibonacci. Each brushstroke is unique. Collectively, they illuminate the dining room; Some selected book covers on display have primary colors on their covers.
The restaurant layout offers a peaceful, focused dining experience. The layout diminishes expectations of the robot as the main spectacle or a novelty. Focus is on the food and guests seeing it being made, yet dining away from the activity of the culinary device and pickup counter.
MENU & BURGER DESIGN
The menu is expository on flavor profiles and a breadth of sensory experiences. We guide the reader through awareness of tastes like smoky, tangy, creamy, savory, sweet, sour, bright, fresh . . . .
Rapid prototyping of burger recipes is a uniquely efficient project. Since the culinary device dispenses sauces down to the milliliter & seasonings down to the gram, Chefs can vary amounts and pairings of sauce and seasoning quickly and effortlessly.
Chefs replicate their creations consistently and precisely. Usually, a Chef must be in the kitchen all the time to ensure their vision is always executed as intended. At Creator, Chefs aren't stuck on repetitive tasks over a grease-vapor-laded griddle. Creator recently celebrated the launch of a new burger, and the Chef was free to interact with guests through the whole event.
SUSTAINABILITY & A BETTER WORK ENVIRONMENT
The culinary device provides better air quality for workers and guests. No fossil fuels are burned in the restaurant. No combustion gases. Pollutants are contained in a non-human-occupied airstream (unheard of).
Efficient energy use on a new level. Creator is an all electric restaurant. The induction griddle only powers up when cooking a burger order, whereas most burger griddles are gas and are on continuously. In turn, gas griddles heat up the whole kitchen, requiring exhausting and cooling for the humans working within, and requiring refrigerators and air conditioners to work that much harder. Plus, induction is 80% efficient compared with gas at 40%.
Creator is a carbon neutral dining experience, from sourcing to cooking to serving. Diners pay only seven cents per burger to dine carbon neutral. Our low energy use compared to other restaurants makes going carbon neutral affordable.
Creator is investing in a more sustainable food system. Rather than purchasing carbon credits, we put the money back into the system we are a part of. With our partnership with ZeroFoodprint, we are supporting the growth of and R&D in regenerative agriculture. Beef has the potential to be part of the solution: *if* more ranches sequester carbon in their soil through regenerative ranching practices. New research shows that the right array of ranching methods can make a ranch carbon *negative* - put another way, the ranch can sequester so much carbon that it more than offsets the carbon and methane the ranch produces.
Space efficient. The culinary device's footprint is as much as half the size of most kitchens that produce this volume.
Creator offers more opportunities to take initiative and have responsibility, from developing restaurant flow to integrating customer feedback to keep honing the capabilities of the culinary device.
Not having the typical boundaries of cashiers and counters means that neither workers nor guests are on autopilot. The way workers engage with customers is nuanced and customized - and critical. Our staff has remarked on feeling more essential than in other service positions.
5% reading time. Employees are given on-the-clock time to read books of their choice, and access to Coursera education.
Creator offers greater potential for growth, developing higher-level interpersonal and technical skills both at Creator and after. Workers have the chance to interact with complex technical concepts and systems and learn about sophisticated culinary concepts.
Restaurant workers and engineers - the unlikely intersection of these two industries offers opportunities for cross pollination. Our heads of engineering are giving reading recommendations and higher education advice to workers who are curious.
WHAT MAKES THE BURGER "GOURMET"?
The freshest burger. Whole brisket and chuck, tomatoes, onions, pickles, cheese are all fed whole into the culinary device. And then ground to order, grilled to order, sliced to order. Most upscale restaurant burger patties are ground daily - in advance, that morning. The culinary device grinds the patty directly onto the grill, slices and butters the bun, slices all the toppings like onions, tomatoes, pickles, and composes the burger.
Tenderness. Tender steak is generally accepted as a baseline goal in popular conversation. But tenderness can't be expected from most restaurant burgers - it's not a thing. At Creator, grind is vertically aligned to your bite, to your teeth. Our inspiration is a technique canonized by Chef Heston Blumenthal of the world-renowned The Fat Duck. This would create the ideal tenderness and juiciness, envisioned Chef Blumenthal along with Chef Kyle Connaughton, after they traveled and tasted the world's most celebrated burgers. Their project #InSearchofPerfection was in 2007. Was the dream ever realized?
Suffice it to say that by hand, it is extremely challenging to keep the grind vertical from grinding to griddle. Especially if you're trying to keep the patty so delicately and loosely packed it would fall apart in human hands. Fortunately, our device has the dexterity to handle all this.
Maillard browning, not char. The grilling surface temps on our culinary device are calibrated for maillard reaction. The patty - loosely packed, vertically aligned - has varied surface areas allowing for more airflow - which means flavorful browning on more surfaces throughout the patty, while keeping it juicy.
The best cuts of beef, from Country Natural Beef, a family-owned Co-op that takes responsible ranching seriously. This beef is GAP 4 rated for humane treatment, no hormones, no antibiotics, pasture raised, never in a feed lot. We use whole brisket and chuck. These are flavorful, juicy cuts, and they each contribute different flavors and textures, for more well-rounded flavor and ideal texture.
TEAM & TECHNOLOGY / CAPABILITY of the culinary device - How this is unprecedented robotics
Housemade robotics. Conceived, designed, even built mainly in-house, from scratch, with some specialized, boutique consulting groups as collaborators. A unique combination of custom components and off-the-shelf parts. Most other food robotics is composed of much more off-the-shelf technology and off-the-shelf equipment.
Authentic restaurant robotics. A dish made start-to-finish - not requiring humans embedded in the food assembly line to fill in gaps that happen to be much more difficult to engineer. Whole ingredients are fed into the culinary device. Prep for other restaurant robotics is still much more extensive. Chopping, for instance, has been an impossible nut to crack.
A composed dish. Making a robot that can put together a bowl of tossed ingredients of similar shape and size is fairly easy. Assembling a burger is far more difficult engineering.
Speed and precision. One culinary device currently makes a burger in under 5 minutes and approximately 120 burgers an hour. We're increasing the speed all the time.
Robotics stewardship. Creator represents one of the first consumer-facing robotics, placed in a public space. Most food robotics are hidden behind closed doors, with none of the design concerns of aesthetics, transparency, nor human interaction with the robots (whether worker or guest).
RESTAURANT BUSINESS MODEL SHAKEUP
Creator spends more on the cost of ingredients than other restaurants at this price point. In an industry that lives or dies by a difference of a few percentage points to food costs, Creator can offer pastured, responsibly produced family-ranch-owned cooperative beef for $6. The efficiency of this culinary device allows Creator to offer "luxury" ingredients, sophisticated flavor pairings and a more informed, analytical ordering experience, if you want it, at $6.
Ethically produced ingredients - especially beef - no longer just for the 1%. 99% of the meat produced for the American market is factory farmed. The good food movement educates consumers on why they should pay more for their food, but imploring can only do so much. The restaurant industry's cost formula must be shaken up to grow support for pastured, humanely raised beef.
Better jobs. Creator's restaurant staff have more opportunities for social interaction, problem solving, creativity, developing their understanding of technical systems, and understand flavor profiles and pairings than in your average quick service restaurant.
Preserving service as part of our dining culture. Service is disappearing because of economics. Creator aims for a human-interaction-rich service experience at a time when restauranteurs are increasingly forced to put service by the wayside.
Shaking up the fine-dining and casual-dining dichotomy. Burgers are beloved and familiar, a perfect vehicle for making the challenging aspects of Chef-driven experiences more accessible. Creator offers an aesthetic life for all, every day.
Internally produced video of Creator
"We visit Creator's first restaurant in San Francisco to taste burgers from the future" - TechCrunch
"Creator strives for 3 goals... 1) Freshness 2) Precision 3) Technique" - Seeker Media
"Machine Makes Burgers from Start to Finish" - BuzzFeed's Bring Me