Metro, Food

Robot Cooks Healthy, Flavorful, Sustainable Bowls at Spyce

With locations in both Harvard Square and Downtown Crossing, Spyce offers the Boston area healthy bowls packed with flavor—and prepared by robots. 

Spyce’s newest location opened in Cambridge this January, but its original location has been open in Downtown Crossing since May 2018. The restaurant seems as if it were tailor-made for pandemic dining—it’s perfect for social distancing with close to zero contact. 

The restaurant experience is almost entirely mechanically run, with only one or two employees working the store to hand the customer their meal. Customers place their customized orders, pay at a kiosk, watch their bowls run through a fully automated kitchen, or “robot,” and then pick up their meal at the end of this assembly line. 

The robot, which Kale Rogers, one of the owners of the restaurant, refers to as “The Infinite Kitchen,” separates each ingredient in a different temperature-controlled lane. The ingredients are then dropped into the bowl as the container runs along a conveyor belt. 

This unique idea came from Rogers and three other mechanical and electrical engineering students at MIT. Prior to graduating in 2016, they developed the business idea in their dorms. According to Rogers, the friends were frustrated by the lack of healthy and inexpensive food options in the area, so they decided to combine their engineering knowledge and their love of cooking to create Spyce together. 

“We kind of had this idea of ‘What if we could design a new restaurant experience that could allow us to cook really fresh meals, made to order, that were more accessible in terms of dietary preferences and price point?’” Rogers said. 

Upon founding the restaurant, they decided to add sustainability to the Spyce mission as well. Its packaging is compostable and recyclable, and there is no red meat served, according to the website. All ingredients are local, seasonal, and traceable, meaning customers are able to easily identify the location where each ingredient is sourced, according to Spyce’s website.

Rogers explained how the nature of Spyce makes it more easily accessible for various dietary needs. Every bowl is completely customizable, with options for those who are vegetarian, vegan, low-carb, keto, and more. Since every ingredient is kept in a separate part of the “Infinite Kitchen” machine throughout the assembly line process, cross contamination that may be harmful to customers with allergies is eliminated. 

Spyce’s menu includes pre-set options with unique combinations that the average person may not think to put together, Rogers said. Rogers also explained that when the culinary team is inventing recipes, they begin by asking what kinds of foods and ideas they want to share with their customers. 

“For us, the answer is an intersection between healthy, vegetable-centric meals and exotic, exciting spices … while also bringing a quick meal to everyone,” Rogers said. 

Rogers’ current favorite is a warm, hearty Umami Q bowl, which includes rice, mushrooms, green apple kimchi, and a sesame chili spice blend. 

Rogers said the company plans on expanding its promotional efforts in the future—even using platforms such as TikTok to reach more customers.

“Our concept is super ‘TikTokable’ because it’s fun and you can see everything [being made]. … I honestly think some of the success that we’ve had on TikTok from different people posting about it has really shifted our thinking to how we can grow a platform there and produce some content,” Rogers said. 

Spyce’s Downtown Crossing location is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., while its Harvard Square location is open Monday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

Rogers said Spyce is aware of its role in the community and that the owners are always looking to improve the lives of others by enabling them to live more fully and healthily.

“When we think about this, we look at how we can really play a part in shaping the future we want to create, which is one that is more healthy, more local, more sustainable, and one that treats our restaurants’ teams well,” Rogers said. “That is the mission of Spyce and something we are trying to do every day.” 

Featured Image by Elizabeth Gray / Heights Staff

March 21, 2021