House of Toast
Everybody Loves Toast
House of Toast is a restaurant concept serving toast, toasted sandwiches, dessert toasts, and also soups and beverages. The House of Toast menu and format would be designed to afford maximum digitization and robotic food preparation. But still, the food would be presented to customers by friendly human attendants who would coach and dote smilingly. The first units would be walk-ins, preferably downtown in high-tech cities. Later, perhaps, drive-ins. The staff might be college students who could use the knowledge and insights learned at House of Toast to maximum advantage. Some might become staff engineers, managers, and future franchisees in the expansion of House of Toast.
How It Works
You can order from your office via phone, or at the table using the on-table screen. You order by talking to your very own artificially intelligent order taker. This is a critical advantage over regular restaurants. No one is standing there on payroll while you peruse, decide, dither, ask questions, and change your mind. The AI is cutting edge bright and infinitely patient. If possible, with a sense of humor. The AI’s depth of knowledge and sweet patience is Profound Advantage #1.
Example: You order any combo of (say, 10 kinds of bread) toasted (light to black), buttered with (any of many kinds of butter), applied (light to runny), and spread with (jam, jelly, PB, avocado, Nutella, Marmite, cheese, etc.) to your desired thickness (barely to excessive). Similarly, complicated particularized toasted sandwiches and tea, coffee, cocoa, etc. to your desired strength with cream, milk, sweeteners exactly as you like it. Everything exactly as you elaborately specify; that’s Profound Advantage #2.
It’s all made by automation, so your preferences are in each machine as your order assembles. Repeat yesterday’s order? With voice recognition, just say so. Substitutions encouraged!
Timing: The early walk-in restaurants will encourage calling in. The necessary order assembly critical path timing and caller’s preferences will be negotiated, and the ETA of the order established. Barring mishaps, the complete order fully assembled will be ready within seconds of the ETA. Delivery to the table (or takeout) will be by friendly engaging staff.
For future drive-in versions, traffic would be factored in. For customers calling in we would know via GPS where their car is, how fast it is traveling, and what traffic conditions in-between are like. Your arrival time would be estimated and regularly updated. Each component of your order would be started at the appropriate moment so that all the parts come together, piping hot, say 10 seconds after your arrival. A lovely, friendly, actual person hands your tray to you and, if not done previously by phone, taps your credit card. You can come inside, drive through, or you can park and eat in the car.
Layout: The restaurant kitchen is set up for public observation. Glass aisles through the food preparation area would encourage close-up marveling. Multiple parallel paths and critical redundancy would assure operational continuity. Considering all the choices, House of Toast would have a seemingly vast menu. But everything would be selected for easy robotic preparation and assembly.
House of Toast is only ostensibly a restaurant. It is, more importantly, a living laboratory of AI and robotic capabilities. As it evolves, it would be constantly rearranged and updated. Investors, future managers, and potential overseas franchisees would be invited to dine in the relaxed ambience and observe the other pleased customers. Some would want in.
Kitchen: Engineering the kitchen is the fun of House of Toast. Laser toasters, butter and marmalade spreaders, sandwich assemblers, all working at high speed behind glass walls. Special guests could dine at a few viewing tables from which they could enjoy the show.
Staff: It’s a high-tech operation. House of Toast staff will be highly trained and well paid. The staff keeps supplies loaded, clears jams, makes repairs, cleans up, and continually fine tunes the operation. Students from the nearest university might make capable employees and benefit educationally. The friendliest and most personable staff would deliver the food to the customers. In busy times they would host and manage the queue. The restroom robots would keep that department sparkling.
Evolution: Automation is happening. Engineering the details would be the challenge and the fun. Perfecting the prototype would provide an Amazon type head start. All profits and investment would need then to go into the technology and business development. Franchising could accelerate future profitability. House of Toast is an opportunity.
House of Toast would need to be elaborated in many directions. Just a few:
Business Development: Financing by bootstrapping, crowdfunding, angels, venture capital, technology funds, robotics companies, etc.
Expertise: AI in-house, “Fresh Consulting” (expensive?), robotics enthusiasts, professors, programmers, restauranteurs.
Layout of the building: The House of Toast kitchen would need to be huge compared to regular restaurant kitchens. Depending on store geometry, the entire first floor could be the kitchen, right behind a large picture window storefront. It would be a showplace. Patrons might walk through the kitchen via a glass enclosed viewing aisle to reach the upper-floor dining areas.
A possible in-house bakery, soup preparation, bacon pre-cooking (for toasted sandwiches), offices, restrooms, etc. might be further above.
Detailed layout and engineering. Here is the fun. In the kitchen, sequencing of the several multi-level assembly lines. Dynamic layout of the trays, plates, utensils, breads, toasters, spreads, garnishes, etc. The prototype line will be scrupulously studied in the AI lab.
For easy re-arrangement, all the robots are on continuously indexed tracks. Any robot can move itself anywhere on its track stopping at the appropriate engraved point as directed by the master program. Paralleling overhead maintenance tracks would allow any malfunctioning robot to be plucked up and quickly replaced.
Best bakeries in the city,
Best butters, jams, jellies, peanut butter, marmite, and other spreads available.
Ripe tomatoes and avocados, gourmet cheeses. Gourmet Toast!
Cutest recyclable paper take-out dishes.
Original location scouting: Bellevue, Mountain View, Golden, New York, London, etc.
Income and fairness to customers: Every variation would have its price. Each bread has its own price. A middle slice costs more than a smaller one close to the loaf end. A thick slice costs more than a thin slice. For heavy butter the charge on the bill is more than for light butter. Jams, cheese, spreads, beverages, all individually priced per quantity. Everything itemized on the bill in complete detail. Prices change daily – but are always fair.
This “fairness ethos” might seem over the top, but it would be right, and for a computerized restaurant not hard to do. The public would have to get used to it, but everybody would, probably, in the long run, admit it is very fair. You pay for what you get - Profound Advantage #3.
Everybody Loves Toast