New salad robot now serving healthy, customized and contactless meals on York’s Keele Campus

If eating healthier is on your list of new year’s resolutions for 2021, make sure to check out the new salad robot at Winters College dining hall on York University’s Keele Campus.

Using 16 fresh ingredients (to start), the salad robot is now serving up healthy, customizable meals, such as salads and bowls, to York students, faculty and staff – in just 90 seconds. Customers can choose from pre-set menu items or build their own creations. The robot provides both meat and vegetarian options, and offers typical salad ingredients in addition to more unique items like edamame and a variety of cheeses.

The salad robot in Winters College dining hall
The new salad robot is located in Winters College dining hall

The first-of-its-kind salad robot, created by California-based company Chowbotics, transforms the salad bar by providing a fast, contactless experience that prioritizes food safety. With its introduction to Keele Campus, York joins other Canadian post-secondary institutions such as the University of Guelph and Sheridan College to offer the innovative technology.

“We’re always keeping our finger on the pulse of dining trends and options that we think the community will enjoy,” says Anthony Barbisan, executive director of Ancillary Services at York University. “We saw the salad robot in action at the Restaurants Canada trade show last year, where it won the Restaurants Canada Innovation Award among other honours, and we were impressed with what it is able to do.”

The salad robot boasts state-of-the-art features that ensure ingredients are kept fresh, and has a YU-card reader to enable quick and easy payment with YU-card Flex dollars. It is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, making it an ideal option for residence students looking for healthy alternatives to off-campus fast food during late-night study sessions.

“Students continue to ask for greater access to healthier options around the clock, and the Chowbotics system enables us to deliver that,” says Barbisan. “The system was also designed with food safety in mind, which is even more important during the pandemic.”

While the salad robot is York’s first food robot, Ancillary Services is also currently piloting an autonomous vending machine for personal care products, which provides the York community with convenient and contactless access to essential items at a time when physical distancing is a top priority. “My Lil’ Healthbot,” located in Central Square on Keele Campus, and near the Breezeway on Glendon Campus, offers approximately 50 of the most commonly purchased personal care products and other convenience items. Additional products can be ordered from the website and will be delivered to the Healthbot for pickup.

Barbisan notes that while the team is exploring other technology-based options for food, beverages and other products that will enhance the campus experience, including a mobile ordering app that launched in January 2021, technology is only part of their efforts. “At the same time, we’re also developing plans to improve our traditional eateries and the menus we serve in support of the University’s Academic Plan and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals,” he says.

By Ariel Visconti, YFile communications officer