In fried chicken-loving South Korea, restaurants serving the country’s favorite fast-food dish are on every street corner.
But Kang Ji-young’s installation brings something different to the table: a robot cooking chicken.
From small family gatherings to K-pop star Jungkook of BTS fame’s live-streamed “mukbang” — a meal broadcast to 10 million viewers that is eaten everywhere, fried chicken is deeply embedded in South Korean culture.
Paired with cold lager and known as “chimaek” – a portmanteau of the Korean words for chicken and beer – it is a staple of Seoul’s famous baseball-watching experience.
The domestic market – the world’s third largest after the United States and China – is worth about seven trillion won (RM24.7bil), but South Korea faces a demographic disaster, with the world’s lowest birthrate. Therefore there is a shortage of labour. Rate.
Low manpower: An employee prepares to serve fried chicken cooked by a robot at Robert’s Chicken restaurant in Seoul. (Below) A robot frying chicken without assistance at the same outlet in Seoul. – AFP
According to industry research, about 54% of business owners in the food service sector report problems finding staff, with a government survey last year finding that long working hours and stressful conditions were the likely culprit.
Korean fried chicken is brined and double-fried, giving it its signature crispy exterior, but this process – more elaborate than that typically used by American fast food chains – creates additional labor and Hot oil requires extended worker proximity.
Enter Kang, a 38-year-old entrepreneur who saw an opportunity to improve the South Korean fried chicken business model — and the dish.
“The market is huge,” Kang said of his Robert’s Chicken franchise.
Chicken and pork cutlets are the most popular delivery orders in South Korea, he said, and the industry could clearly benefit from greater automation to “effectively address labor costs and workforce shortages.”
Kang’s robot, composed of a simple, flexible mechanical arm, is capable of frying 100 chickens in two hours – a task that would otherwise require about five people and several deep fryers.
But Kang says, the robot not only makes chicken more efficiently — it also makes it more delicious.
“We can now say with confidence that our robot fries better than humans,” he said.
Investing in ‘FoodTech’
Already a global cultural superpower and major semiconductor exporter, South Korea last year announced plans to inject millions of dollars into a “foodtech” fund to help startups working on high-tech food industry solutions.
Seoul says such innovations could become a “new growth engine”, arguing that if the country’s strength in advanced robotics and AI technology can be combined with the competitiveness of Korean food classics like kimchi, There are huge possibilities.
Easy Peezy: A robot is being used to fry chicken at Robert’s Chicken restaurant in Seoul. – AFP
Lee Ki-won, a professor of food science at Seoul National University, said South Korea’s existing foodtech industry — which includes everything from next-day grocery delivery app Market Kurly to AI smart kitchens to “vegan egg” startups — already It is worth lakhs.
Even South Korea’s Samsung Electronics – one of the world’s biggest tech companies – is trying to get in on the action, recently launching AI-personalized recipes and meal-planning available in eight languages. Platform Samsung Food has been launched.
Lee predicted that other major conglomerates in South Korea could follow Samsung into foodtech.
“Delivering food using electric vehicles or providing delivery directly by robots within apartment complexes, known as ‘metamobility,’ could become part of our daily lives,” he said.
“I believe that within the next 10 years, the food tech industry will turn into the leading sector in South Korea.
struggled in the beginning
Entrepreneur Kang now has 15 robot-built chicken restaurants in South Korea and a branch in Singapore.
During a visit to AFP’s Seoul branch, a robot carefully handled the frying process — from dipping the chicken in oil, to turning it over for even cooking, to retrieving it at the right level of crispness, because The unique aroma of crispy chicken wafted through the shop.
Many customers remained unaware of the robotic chefs hard at work behind their food.
Kim Moon-jung, a 54-year-old insurance worker, said he was not sure how a robot would cook chicken differently from a human one “but one thing is for sure – it tastes delicious”.
The robot can monitor the temperature and oxidation level of the oil in real time while frying chicken, ensuring consistent taste and better hygiene.
When Kang first started her business she “struggled initially” to see why someone would use a robot instead of a human chef.
But “after developing these technologies, I realized that from the customer’s perspective, they are able to enjoy food that is not only hygienic but also delicious”, he said.
His next venture is a tip-free bar in New York City’s Koreatown, where cocktails will include Korea’s soju rice wine — and it will be made by robots. – AFP