With climate change pushing companies to evaluate their sustainability practices, one startup wants to help food-service operators make washing dishes more environmentally friendly — by using robots and artificial intelligence (AI).
“When you automate, you can create much better efficiencies,” Linda Pouliot, CEO and co-founder of Dishcraft, told Yahoo Finance (video above). “We use only a quarter of the water and a tenth of the power that a traditional dish room would use. And so, it's better for the environment. And it's certainly better for the dining experience. And it's also better for the operator.”
The Bay Area-based startup has received over $45 million in funding so far. Pouliot said that the service works “very much like a linen service.” Dishcraft delivers sanitized dishes each day to kitchens and picks up used ones, which are brought to a centralized hub where they are washed by robotic dishwashers.
“Because we're able to smartly connect devices, we're able to use cold water, and we're able to recycle that,” Pouliot said. The company offers a dish and reusable container service within a 25-mile radius of its commercial dishwashing hub, which Pouliot said is “far superior to traditional methods or to compostable single-use disposables” when it comes to sustainability. (As part of the service, Dishcraft provides collection bins for restaurants and cafeterias to collect the reusable containers.)
She also added that the advantage of using robotics and AI is that it maintains a higher standard of cleanliness "so each robot can inspect each ware 22 times. And that's very, very hard to do in a traditional dish room.”
'The cost of compostables ... has skyrocketed'
As restaurants and cafeterias face labor shortages amid the coronavirus pandemic, robotic dishwashers could help fill some of those vacancies.
For food-services operations that use a traditional dish room, “we can offer up to 24% savings,” Pouliot said. “And then in an operation that is using compostables or single-use disposable wares and wants to switch to a reusable service, we are equal or even up to 35% savings because, as you know, right now, the cost of compostables, because of supply chain issues, has skyrocketed.”
As restaurants continue to recover from the pandemic, Dishcraft is looking to bring its robotic dishwashing technology to scale.
“Today we're in the Bay Area, and we're rapidly expanding here,” Pouliot said. “And in 2022, we are going to across the country. We have two cities that we plan to open in Q1, but more on that later.”
Grace is an assistant editor for Yahoo Finance and a UX writer for Yahoo products.