French start-up Cala has today announced a €5.5m seed investment led by BACKED VC. Possible Ventures, Kima Ventures, Quiet Venture and Acequia Capital also contributed investment.
The funding will be used to expand Cala’s presence in France, explore more locations around Europe, and help increase headcount across the start-up’s engineering, product and operations teams.
Fixing the food service industry
Cala is credited with making the first fully robotic pasta restaurant in the world. Founded in 2017 by engineering students, the idea was born out of a belief that the ‘food service industry is broken’.
“As students, we were frustrated by the cost and lack of healthy meals available to us. Through our research, and driven by our own
stomachs, we could see that the food service industry is broken,” said Ylan Richard, Cala co-founder and CEO.
“In fast food, the low-profit margin means that it’s impossible to use higher quality ingredients. We realised that if you could automate the meal preparation, you could rapidly increase the number of meals being produced and improve the economics.”
Cala’s solution is centred around pasta, because it is customisable and not reliant on meat – making, what Richard described as, food that is ‘more sustainable, healthy and affordable’.
While most of its business comes via food delivery apps, earlier this year Carla opened its first restaurant in Paris’ fifth arrondissement. Customers order their food via a terminal in the restaurant – selecting the type of pasta and sauce – which the robot then prepares in full view.
The restaurant has the capacity to prepare 400 orders per hour in a 4m² kitchen.
FoodNavigator asked Richard how customers are responding to robot-made food. “As we opened our first restaurant during the COVID crisis in October 2020, we were only available through the delivery platforms, which didn’t let our clients see the robot in action” he explained.
“As we reopened the restaurant to the public for takeaway and click & collection later on, our clients were positively surprised to see the
robots and somehow relieved to finally understand how we could offer such good food at this price.”
As Cala looks to expand its restaurant network across France, and further afield into Europe, Richard told this publication he is solely focused on food service for the time being.
“Our technology could be used in a retail environment…but we don’t plan on going that way in the short term.”
Similarly when asked whether the company is looking to license out its technology, we were told that is not in the start-up’s short term plans.
“Right now, we are focusing on developing the most exceptional customer experience, which for us means controlling the experience end-to-end and operating our own restaurants.”