Trend Watch: Autonomous Restaurants on Campus

Published on : 12/9/21
  • Introducing Yo-Kai Express

    Technology is a fully integrated and essential part of students’ daily lives. However, one of the most important environments for students—the college campus—continues to fall behind in providing the digital tools they expect. Students are unhappy with their college’s approach to digital innovation[1], and they have been for many years.

    Tech-savvy Gen Z students need campuses that have adapted to their digital way of life. Higher education institutions know they need to deliver more innovations to their students but struggle to launch digital technologies without the necessary resources and bandwidth. Lagging development in the digital space quickly makes campuses seem outdated, impacting student recruitment and retention and diminishing the overall student experience.

    Sodexo’s new autonomous restaurant partner, Yo-Kai Express, is the latest technology for on-demand dining fueled by robotics and artificial intelligence. The concept is inspired by the Japanese and Chinese urban legend of “Yo-Kai,” a mythical creature that can pop up anywhere at any time. These autonomous restaurants embody the same legendary spirit by satisfying people’s cravings for a well-prepared meal all day long.

    The high-tech vending kiosks installed in high-traffic areas are convenient and easily accessible. Guests order and pay via a touchscreen with an intuitive user interface. The machine prepares fresh meals in under 60 seconds, using recipes created by Yo-Kai’s own Michelin-starred chef. The menu features authentic Asian cuisine, including Taiwanese beef noodle soup, Vietnamese pho, udon noodles, teriyaki rice bowls, Korean and Japanese ramen, and more.

    While most Gen Z students—the first generation to live entirely in the age of digital technology—still prefer brick-and-mortar shopping, they also list robots as new technology they’d like to see in retail.

    Patented technology, artificial intelligence, and cloud-based data help each autonomous restaurant meet high food safety and sanitization standards, produce nearly zero food waste with each meal, and reduce labor costs onsite. Yo-Kai Express gives students 24/7 access to freshly prepared meals, particularly late at night when options are limited but demand is high. In addition, these machines offer contactless dining, a feature that has significantly grown in popularity in the last two years due to safety concerns.

    New Mexico State University introduced a Yo-Kai Express machine on campus in October, generating immense student interest. Within the first few weeks, the machine was already preparing more than 60 bowls a day. Next spring, 10 additional Yo-Kai Express kiosks are slated to arrive on Sodexo partner campuses across the country.

    Yo-Kai Express offers the convenience, customization, bold flavors, and high-quality ingredients that students crave, along with a novel dining experience to keep them engaged. Autonomous restaurants elevate the digital experience on campus and satisfy student demand for technology that seamlessly integrates into their daily lives.


    [1] Modern Campus - Are You Delivering the Digital Experience Your Students Expect?