By Liz Caldwell
Feb. 13, 2019 | A robot named Sally — the first robot of its kind in the industry — is making customized salads 24 hours a day at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), providing guests and employees with a healthy meal option to meet individual needs.
Sally was installed Jan. 30 in the Lobby Café and has averaged 65 salads a day. Customers can choose from 22 ingredients, including roasted chicken, carrots, broccoli, two kinds of cheese, cucumber, tomatoes and sunflower seeds. Two kinds of dressing are offered – ranch and balsamic vinegar, with plans to rotate fresh dressings.
The robot has proved an immediate success, said Tonya Johnson, director of UAMS Nutrition Services, and has to be refilled several times a day.
“We were overwhelmed with the response,” Johnson said. “We expected to sell about 35-40 a day, but from the very first day people have been enthusiastic about choosing a salad where they can get the ingredients they want.”
Each entrée-sized salad is $7.99. Users can fine-tune the calorie total by adding or subtracting ingredients as well as view full nutritional details for each selection. Ingredients are separated by canisters and replenished on a regular basis. This reduces the risk of foodborne illness and ingredient cross-contamination.
The robot is 3 foot by 3 foot and made by Chowbotics, a Silicon Valley-based food robotics company. UAMS is the third hospital to use Sally the robot. The others are Indiana University Bloomington in Bloomington, Ind., and Erlanger Children’s Hospital in Chattanooga, Tenn.
“Because it’s interactive, it encourages people to eat more healthfully,” Johnson said. “Customers like the touchscreen and watching the ingredients being added to the bowl.”
Johnson had wanted to add a salad bar to the Lobby Café, but space and logistics made it unfeasible. She heard of the robot and upon inquiry, Chowbotics sent one to UAMS as a demo. UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA, knew immediately after seeing a demonstration that it was something he wanted visitors and employees to be able to have.
“Sally’s fresh salads are an ideal alternative to a salad bar and fit perfectly with UAMS’ mission to promote a healthier lifestyle,” Patterson said.
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