Mezli Fully-Autonomous Restaurant in San Francisco

  • September 1, 2022
  • William Payne

San Mateo based startup Mezli has launched a fully-autonomous robotic restaurant. The company claims it is the first of its kind in the world. The restaurant opened in August and is located in the Spark Social food park in San Francisco.

Mezli’s restaurant serves a full hot menu to customers without requiring any human intervention. This automated approach allows Mezli to offer its menu of Mediterranean grain bowls, sides, and drinks at a significantly lower price point than similarly located fast-casual restaurants.

Mezli was founded by a team of Stanford engineers: Alex Kolchinski, Alex Gruebele, and Max Perham. As graduate students at Stanford, Mezli’s founders found that they had no nearby food options that were convenient, affordable, and healthy. Putting their technical backgrounds to use, they teamed up with Michelin-star chef Eric Minnich to solve the problem with a combination of robotic and culinary innovation.

The team started full-time work on Mezli in January of 2021 while participating in the Y Combinator startup accelerator and working out of the Kitchentown food innovation centre. During 2021, the team opened a pop-up restaurant, built a prototype robot, and brought on a number of employees, investors, including roboticist Pieter Abbeel and restaurateur Zaid Ayoub, and advisors, including Charles Bililies of Souvla.

Mezli claims that its new restaurant is the first fully-autonomous restaurant in the world. Previous automated culinary concepts have either achieved partial automation of fresh hot menus, but required human involvement in the process, or achieved full automation of simpler menus, like rehydrated noodle bowls and made-to-order cold salads. Mezli’s restaurant will be the first to autonomously serve customers a fully customisable, made-to-order hot menu, with no human intervention required at all.

“It resonates with me,” Mezli’s investor Pieter Abbeel said. “Anything physical is always harder than you think, so if you don’t come up with a first principles way to solve it, it will be difficult. In addition, from day one, the food was being served and that is compelling.”

After the launch at Spark Social, the Mezli team plans to expand to multiple locations while also widening the culinary options available through the Mezli platform. Because robotic Mezli restaurants are smaller and cheaper to build than traditional fast-casual restaurants, they can be deployed in a wider range of locations, at a smaller carbon footprint per location, while serving fresh, healthy meals at a low price point.