- Creating Culinary Communities (C3) founder Sam Nazarian is leading a seed capital round, in which Nommi, a startup that uses automation to create bowl-based meals, is looking to raise $20 million, Nommi announced Tuesday. The investment is part of a 50/50 deal that includes a partnership with C3, which will initially test the robotic kitchens through "Iron Chef" Masaharu Morimoto's Sa'Moto restaurant brand.
- Nommi is building a standalone robotic kitchen that can produce and dispense grain, noodle or lettuce-based dishes in three minutes. The integrated cooking system can produce a variety of menu options, including multiple bases and toppings, and can be configured for single- and multi-unit brands.
- This investment and partnership builds on C3's ongoing strategy to work with more tech providers. This year, it partnered with robot delivery Coco to deliver C3's virtual brands in Los Angeles and expanded its restaurant network through a deal with point-of-sales integration company Chowly.
Because of its culinary versatility, this automation technology has the potential to expand through many of C3's brands, like Krispy Rice, El Pollo Verde, Kumi or Plant Nation. It also could grow through C3's partner brands, like Soom Soom Fresh Mediterranean.
C3's initial projected order volume of 1,000 units on top of its investment could allow it to grow these concepts more quickly while allowing increased access. The Sa’Moto menu, for example, will be available through Nommi 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Expanding through this automation kitchen is likely to be more cost-effective and could even open up additional revenue streams through takeout or catering. According to the company, the kitchen can fit into a single container or food truck, while also increasing throughput. Each Nommi machine is able to hold 330 bowls and lids before needing to be refilled.
Using automation could also help C3 continue its rapid expansion. It currently has about 800 digital brand locations with a pipeline of well over 1,000. It has served more than 2.3 million meals in the past year through its 40 culinary brands, according to the press release. Earlier this year, the concept received a $10 million investment, in addition to an $80 million investment in July.
This partnership comes as the restaurant industry faces a historic labor shortage, with over 1 million fewer workers than in 2019 and an all-time-high quit rate. About 50% of U.S. restaurant operators said they plan to use automation technology to help fill labor gaps in the next two to three years.
Several concepts are already exploring or accelerating automated cooking systems to alleviate some back-of-house pressures. White Castle ramped up its deployment of kitchen robot Flippy, while Saladworks has partnered with Chowbotics robot Sally to create customizable salads. 800 Degrees Pizza is expanding through Piestro's automated machines, with plans to bring 3,600 such machines to market in five years.
Ghost kitchen concepts are also experimenting with automation. Last year, Kitchen Robotics introduced the Beastro, a standalone kiosk that acts as a fully automated kitchen. At Inspire Brands' new ghost kitchen, Alliance Kitchen, Buffalo Wild Wings is testing Flippy Wings, a robotic chicken wing fryer.