Aniai, a robotics company specializing in kitchen solutions, has successfully raised $12 million in a pre-Series A funding round. The round was led by InterVest, a prominent venture capital firm in South Korea, and included contributions from new investors SV Investment and Ignite Innovation, as well as existing investor Capstone Partners. This latest investment brings Aniai’s total funding to $15 million.
Established in 2020, Aniai has been at the forefront of developing and commercializing a robotic solution for cooking hamburgers. Its primary product, the ‘Alpha Grill,’ utilizes robotics to efficiently cook hamburgers, with a double-sided grill capable of cooking up to eight patties simultaneously or 200 patties per hour.
The implementation of Alpha Grill in a kitchen setting allows restaurant brands to streamline operations by eliminating repetitive tasks associated with hamburger cooking, such as pressing and flipping. This not only reduces cooking time but also decreases labor intensity for employees.
The capital will reportedly be used to further Aniai’s mission of improving kitchen productivity through robotics and automation, as well as to increase production to meet current and future demand. Aniai also plans to enhance its robotic solutions by integrating advanced, cloud-based, AI software to improve the capabilities and performance of the Alpha Grill.
The upcoming software release for Alpha Grill will feature AI technology capable of discerning the color of hamburger patties and assessing their quality through real-time vision sensors during the cooking process. If a hamburger patty does not meet the brand’s cooking specifications and requirements, the Alpha Grill will notify the cooking staff, ensuring rigorous and enhanced quality control. This new feature will be unveiled at the National Restaurant Association Show in May.
With the latest funding, Aniai plans to expedite the launch of its first dedicated manufacturing facility, Factory One, in South Korea. This will ensure stable production and supply chain management for Alpha Grill, aligning with the company’s ongoing expansion efforts in North America and globally. Factory One has the capacity to produce over 1,000 Alpha Grill units per year.
Aniai has been piloting Alpha Grill with several leading North American hamburger brands since the third quarter of 2023, with multiple implementations and initial rollouts planned within the next twelve months. The company has already successfully deployed Alpha Grill to seven South Korean hamburger franchises, including DOWN TOWNER, BAS Burger, CJ Freshway, and Mom’s Touch. Aniai has also recently announced new partnerships with Lotteria, Teisty Burger, and Fault Burger, securing 500 Alpha Grill pre-orders for delivery beginning early in Q1 of 2024.
In 2023, Aniai secured a $3 million seed round investment led by Capstone Partners and Lotte Ventures. The company was also awarded the 2023 Kitchen Innovations Award at the National Restaurant Association Show.
Aniai is not the only restaurant robotics company to secure significant investment capital. In July, for example, kitchen robotics startup Botinkit raised $13 million for its suite of automated cooking robots, with plans to expand into the Middle East and Europe this year. The Series A funding round was led by Forebright, with additional investors including 5Y Capital and Brizan Venture. This latest round brings the company’s overall funding to just under $20 million.
Botinkit’s line of kitchen robots, designed for stir-frying and stewing tasks, have already been deployed at food stalls inside Walmart and Delibowl in China. The company hopes to add artificial general intelligence into the robots, optimizing and refining its cooking processes according to user preference.
Earlier in the year, as reported here, Pudu Robotics, a leading restaurant service robotics manufacturer based in China, completed a Series C3 financing round, raising more than $15 million. The company has reportedly been using the new funds to build a new production base to expand production capacity and develop products for commercial cleaning scenarios. At around the same time, SJW Robotics, which specializes in the creation of autonomous robotic restaurants, raised $2 million in a seed funding round.