Digital Menus are Just the Beginning


This Installation of the Week is actually an entire eatery. Thanks to four athletic and nutrition-savvy engineering students from MIT, the worlds of digital technology, touchscreens and robotics have collided to form a new restaurant concept that combines the best aspects of fast casual with fine dining in the heart of Boston. It’s called Spyce, and its robotic kitchen is now offering healthy, vegetable-heavy alternatives with a dash of novelty to discerning urban diners on the go.

It works like this: Hungry consumers enter Spyce, and instead of dealing with any traditional staff members, they order their food bowl by touchscreen from a dazzling and diverse array of ethnic styles. It’s like a trip around the world at Epcot, but with far fewer steps. The order is then sent to the robotic kitchen, where one of seven futuristic woks begins building the dish with a programmed recipe and an inductive heating method inspired by the work of Nikola Tesla, which is actually faster and less energy-intensive than your average grill or flat top. Each wok has a dedicated digital display, which welcomes guests to Spyce before being engaged and delivering order updates to waiting customers. Three minutes later, those customers are enjoying a meal for under $10 in most cases.

After building a prototype of the automated wok in their fraternity basement, the engineering students/founders were ready to make themselves known and investigate funding options. They set out to track down Michelin-Star holder Daniel Boulud in between his rounds as supreme leader of Food Network reality show judging panels. In fact, the clever young men behind Sypce managed to correctly guess the celebrity super chef’s email address and made their pitch via cyberspace. Boulud liked what he saw, and decided to invest as well as join the team as culinary director/taste tester.

In a way, Spyce has implemented the holistic, expedited and fully functional version of the digital menu board, but it may be interesting for some to note that Spyce isn’t just blazing trails in terms of technological customer service. While sourcing its ingredients appropriately for taste and efficiency, Spyce is also unabashedly vegan-friendly and a proudly beef-free establishment in the name of sustainability. These guys even took a page out of the traditional French culinary bible by implementing a garde manger (pronounced gar-mahn-jey), which literally translates as “keeper of the food,” but is just a fancy way of referring to the employee that garnishes the bowl appropriately and allows you to eat with your eyes as well as your stomach.

Check out the video below for a deeper dive into Spyce’s story and technological approach:

About Author

Jason Kushner is a videographer, editor, writer and filmmaker living in the Greater Atlanta Area. With an educational background combining film and journalism, Kushner has shot video and written for a myriad of publications and multimedia projects including Creative Loafing Tampa,, Starline Films and Digital Signage Connection. His 2009 documentary American Colonies: Collapse of the Bee became an Official Selection at 12 international film festivals, won Best Documentary at the 2009 Central Florida Film Festival and a John Muir Gold Award at the 2009 Yosemite Film Festival.  In 2015, he became Digital Media Editor for Digital Signage Expo, LightShow West and LED Specifier Summit and has since become Digital Content Manager for those shows’ parent company, Exponation.

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