In what is a first for Michigan college campuses, Ferris State University’s Dining Services office invites students, faculty and staff to participate in a Facebook Live event on Wednesday, Sept. 16. The new Brutus Bowls fresh food robot will be featured in an 11 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Dining Services Director Scott Rossen said their department wanted to incorporate Ferris’ Bulldog brand with the world’s first fresh food robot, “Sally,” produced by California-based Chowbotics.
The Brutus Bowls robot offers thousands of custom meal and snack options from any combination of up to 22 ingredients, in addition to chef-crafted, pre-programmed salads, grain bowls and snacks. Users can fine-tune their calorie total by adding or subtracting ingredients, as well as view full nutritional details for each selection. Chowbotics says that its proprietary technology also reduces the risk of foodborne illness, as ingredients remain sanitary in sealed and separate containers kept under constant, monitored refrigeration. Each of these ingredients sees replenishment regularly and remains contained within the robot, greatly reducing the potential for contamination, the company said. The unique environment also helps eliminate food waste, as the food has no exposure to open air and can stay consistently cool, extending product life.
“We believe Ferris students, faculty and staff will find Brutus Bowls to be an ideal alternative to a salad bar or prepackaged vending,” Chowbotics CEO Rick Wilmer said. “These fresh, healthy meals will bring nourishment day and night to customers who seek a quick solution to enjoy on campus, or take along with them.”
Operations Specialist Jennifer Thede, with Ferris’ Auxiliary Enterprises, said to comply with social distancing guidelines, their event on Sept. 16 will feature Brutus Ferris, the university mascot, as they combine value and fun in their Facebook Live event.
“The Brutus Bowls ribbon-cutting will take place just outside the Quad Café, but the live event will allow anyone to observe or enjoy at that time,” Thede said. “Each of the first 150 campus customers who comment #brutusbowls during our event will receive a coupon for 25 percent off their purchase from the Brutus Bowls fresh food robot.”
Rossen said that the opportunity to enjoy Brutus Bowls will occur at other campus locations.
“All it requires, beyond our keeping the containers stocked is a place to rest and an electrical supply,” Rossen said. “Our plan is to place Brutus Bowls in FLITE, and at The Rock Café. Since this is a very portable unit, there will also be occasion to provide this service for group meetings, when those become possible in the future.”
“We are glad to begin this offering now, with great anticipation of Brutus Bowls’ benefits elsewhere on campus, at the appropriate time,” Thede said.
Rossen said they expected this method of offering healthy, fresh and customizable salads would arrive on campus near the end of the Spring 2020 semester. Still, the arrival date was shifted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, Chowbotics deployed fresh food robots to hospitals and grocery stores, where self-service food was no longer an option.
The business magazine Fast Company previously highlighted this fresh food robot as one of “10 Restaurant Innovations Changing the Way We Eat,” and as a finalist in the 2018 World Changing Ideas Awards. The National Restaurant Association’s Kitchen Innovation Awards, BIG Innovation Awards, Edison Awards, and Best in Biz Awards recently recognized Chowbotics for the robot’s impact on the foodservice industry.