Automation is a boogeyman in most industries, where jobs are under threat of being taken by robotic workers. Restaurants are no exception. The way that this exciting new technology is reaching the kitchen is diverse but, few standards are being set across the industry. In fact, it’s a period of experimentation for many restaurateurs.

Many are dubious that robots could perform tasks as complex as cooking, especially recipes that go beyond a simple hamburger. But researchers report that robots can copy the types of human gestures necessary for cooking, with improvements in accuracy and elegance every year.[1] While it’s just 3d-printers printing hamburgers for now, soon the entire kitchen could go without a human for a whole dinner service.[2]

The advantages of a robotic kitchen include cheaper labor costs, reduced liability, and consistency in recipes that avoids chefs having an off-day that disappoints diners. But the robots aren’t stopping at the kitchen doors. Servers too are being replaced. In the place of cashiers, customers order via touch-screen and grab food from a wall of cubbies that open into both the dining area and the kitchen.

Though the trends point to more automation, it’s impossible to say how restaurants will integrate this technology. The limits faced ten years ago are nothing like those faced today, and we can expect the same to be said a decade from now. What can be said is that the restaurant industry is changing, and robots will be at the forefront of this revolution.