As restaurants, catering businesses, and cafeterias prepare to reopen after the novel coronavirus crisis, both they and consumers will be more concerned than ever about hygiene. Dishcraft Robotics Inc., which provides cleaning robots and delivery services for dishes, today announced that it has raised $20 million in Series A1 funding.
The San Carlos, Calif.-based startup was founded in 2015. Dishcraft said its purpose-built robotic dishwashers can autonomously clean and sanitize tens of thousands of dishes every day. Similar to a linen service, the Dishcraft Daily service has delivered plates, bowls, cups, and utensils to foodservice operators including corporate, hotel, and hospital cafeterias for the past year throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Dishcraft said it collects and returns dirty wares to its dishwashing hub, where robots use advanced sensors, computer vision, artificial intelligence, UV lighting, and innovative mechanics to autonomously sort, scrub, inspect, and rack dishware. Its robots use magnets to sort dishes with metal disks in the bottom and can handle two sizes of plates and two sizes of bowls.
Each plate is inspected multiple times, spotting minuscule particles invisible to the human eye and washing plates until they’re entirely clean. Dishcraft said it sanitizes up to 50,000 place settings per day, without any human hands touching the dishes before they reach diners.
The company claimed that Dishcraft Daily is eco-friendly, replacing single-use foodware that ends up in landfills and using small amounts of cold water and a fraction of the energy of typical dishwashers. Dishcraft Daily customers include Affirm and foodservice company Guckenheimer, with more to be announced soon.
Dishcraft preps for post-COVID-19 dining
As restaurants begin to reopen, they often start with single-use takeaway dishes that are disposable and add to the waste stream. Dishcraft said it plans to use the new investment to expand its daily dish-delivery service to handle reusable to-go containers, cups, and utensils.
The company has devised.a reusable takeout container that can withstand high heat for sanitation and be washed more than 1,000 times. This will enable foodservice operators, starting with corporate cafeterias, to offer diners individually portioned meals in reusable containers that meet health guidelines, said the company.
In combination with “social distancing” requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, such guidelines will likely limit communal dining for the foreseeable future, making takeaway options a compelling way to restart foodservice operations, according to Dishcraft.
“At Dishcraft, we use robotics, automation, and a service business model to solve real-world problems. The ongoing support of our investors underscores how Dishcraft is at the forefront of technology, poised to meet the changing needs of a critical industry,” stated Linda Pouliot, CEO and founder of Dishcraft. “The pandemic has put the spotlight on the absolute necessity for hygienic foodservice, and, with our solution, foodservice operators do not need to give up sustainability to achieve that goal.”
Dishcraft also plans to expand the size of its dishwashing hub in San Carlos, Calif.
Investing in restaurant RaaS
New investor Grit Ventures led the fundraising round and was joined by returning investors First Round Capital, Baseline Ventures, Fuel Capital, and Lemnos. To date, Dishcraft has raised $46 million in venture funding, with a previous round in June 2019.
Marc Randolph, co-founder and former CEO of Netflix, and Kelly Coyne, founder and partner at Grit Ventures, will join Dishcraft’s board of directors, joining other prominent board members including Steve Anderson, founder of Baseline Ventures.
“Even pre-COVID, Dishcraft was on track to be a significant force of disruption in the world of food services,” said Coyne. “In recent years, robotics has introduced major operational improvements in traditional industry. In particular, firms like Dishcraft that leverage RaaS [robotics-as-a-service] have been able to rapidly gain traction and sell effortlessly into long-stagnant industries.”