Now there’s an AI gas station with robot fry cooks

Now there’s an AI gas station with robot fry cooks

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There’s a little-known hack in rural America: you can get the best fried food at the gas station (or in the case of a place I went to on my last road trip, shockingly good tikka masala). Now, one convenience store chain wants to change that with a robotic fry cook that it’s bringing to a place once inhabited by a person who may or may not smell like a recent smoke break and cooks up a mean fried chicken liver.

The convenience store chain Re-Up announced that it’s installing “The Wingman,” a robot from Nala Robotics that drops fry baskets into hot oil and rolls chicken wings around in sauce before dumping those things into buckets for your consumption (at least, based on the video below). The company says that the machine will use “advanced artificial intelligence technology” to give customers “fully customizable fried chicken, french fries and other menu items.”

A quote from the release reads: “The Wingman doesn’t get sick can work around the clock and can cook any dish efficiently all the time, improving on quality and saving on labor costs.”

But the store isn’t apparently just focused on employing robot fry cooks. Re-Up founder Michael Salafia says that “by harnessing the power of AI, we are able to provide our customers with convenient, personalized, and safe shopping and dining experiences.” Honestly, I always felt pretty safe around Chet, and he always knew my order, but this is the future, right?

A picture of one of Re-Up’s locations.

One of Re-Up’s recently-opened locations.

Image: Re-Up

Re-Up has nine stores currently (with more planned), including one that just opened in Melbourne, Florida, near Melbourne Orlando International Airport. Other locations in Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama are listed on Re-Up’s site, which also features this image of a robotic arm dipping its robotic finger in a latte:

A picture of a robotic arm dipping its tip into a latte.

This does look prettier than the normal gas station coffee.

Image: Re-Up

Robotic kitchens aren’t unheard of. McDonald’s has been attempting robotic innovations for a while now, as has Chipotle. Nala announced its Wingman machine in 2022, but it also offers machines that make sandwiches and others for pizza. Perhaps robot cooks are the future. At least once they aren’t shockingly expensive, don’t break down, and running a business based on them isn’t exceedingly difficult. But that future is a little hard to see when watching one slowly fail at plating a sandwich. Then again, Chet has been known to serve a sunny-side-up egg with a broken yolk, too.

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