Aniai, a New York-based robotic kitchen startup, announced today it has raised $12 million in pre-Series A funding for its hamburger-grilling robot, Alpha Grill. The funding round, led by InterVest, a prominent venture capital firm in South Korea, brings Aniai’s total funding to $15 million. Other backers to the round include SV Investment, Ignite Innovation from the UK, and existing investor Capstone Partners.
Aniai said the additional capital will be used to launch Aniai’s first manufacturing facility, Factory One, in South Korea. The company also plans to deploy a cloud-based AI software platform, Alpha Cloud, for its robot. This move is aimed at ensuring stable production and efficient supply chain management for Alpha Grill, aligning with the startup’s expansion efforts in North America and globally.
The development comes at a time when the restaurant industry is increasingly turning to robotics to address challenges like labor shortages and rising wages. A recent research report indicates that the adoption of robotics can lead to significant savings in labor costs, with the potential to replace a substantial portion of restaurant positions with robots.
Founded in 2020 by CEO Gunpil Hwang and other co-founders, Aniai focuses on automation and AI in the food service sector. The company aims to empower restaurants by offering intelligent solutions to improve kitchen operations, enhance production, reduce costs, and elevate quality and service.
Gunpil Hwang, with a background in research and development and prior experience at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), expressed enthusiasm about the funding round. Hwang highlighted Aniai’s mission to enhance kitchen productivity through robotics and automation, with plans to integrate advanced, cloud-based AI software to further enhance the capabilities of Alpha Grill.
In a statement, Hwang said, “Aniai has successfully completed a round of funding from both domestic and international investors who have recognized our innovative solutions, future potential and remarkable progress within the food service industry to date.”
“This capital infusion will help our mission to improve kitchen productivity through robotics and automation while helping us ramp up production to meet current and future demand. Additionally, Aniai plans to augment its robotic solutions by adding advanced, cloud-based, AI software to further enhance the capabilities and performance of the Alpha Grill early this year, which will benefit new and existing Aniai customers.”
Since its inception around four years ago, Aniai has been a pioneer in the innovation, development, and commercialization of robotic solutions for cooking hamburgers. The flagship product, Alpha Grill, features a double-sided grill capable of cooking up to eight patties simultaneously or 200 patties per hour. This automation streamlines operations in restaurant kitchens, reducing cooking time and labor intensity.
Aniai’s upcoming software release for Alpha Grill will incorporate AI technology to assess the color and quality of hamburger patties in real time during the cooking process. This feature aims to maintain rigorous quality control by promptly notifying cooking staff if a patty does not meet the brand’s specifications.
The startup plans to launch Factory One this year to meet the increasing market demand for Alpha Grill, with approximately 500 pre-orders for delivery starting in the first quarter of 2024. The manufacturing facility is expected to produce over 1,000 robots annually. Aniai will showcase its latest cloud-based AI feature at the National Restaurant Association Show in May, demonstrating its commitment to revolutionizing the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) industry in the United States.
“Aniai has demonstrated its market prowess by successfully commercializing its innovative cooking robots, thereby delivering industry-leading profitable impact to its customers,” said a representative from the lead investor, InterVest. “The company enhanced its value by pioneering a new market and securing substantial contracts within a brief timeframe. We look forward to seeing the positive impact that Aniai’s cooking robots will make on the U.S. Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) industry.”