Spyce’s Robotic Kitchen Continues To Grow

Co-founders Brady Knight, Michael Farid, Kale Rogers, and Luke Schlueter standing in front of the newly renovated Spyce location in Downtown Boston.
Co-founders Brady Knight, Michael Farid, Kale Rogers, and Luke Schlueter standing in front of the newly renovated Spyce location in Downtown Boston.

Four former MIT varsity student-athletes are building on the success of their restaurant, Spyce. The group just completed a total renovation of their downtown Boston location, and they are planning to open a new location in Harvard Square in January 2021.

MIT Athletics recently caught up with Kale Rogers ‘16, a co-founder and the current Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Spyce, for the first time since their restaurant opened over two years ago to hear what is next for the MIT alums.

Expanding Spyce

Founded as the world’s first fully robotic restaurant in May of 2018, Spyce recently underwent a 10-month renovation before reopening in November 2020. So what has changed?

To answer that, Rogers pointed to the original mission of the restaurant: 

“At its core, Spyce is here to increase access to healthy cooked-to-order meals,” he stated, adding that the company’s processes are designed to create more sustainable systems and high quality jobs for those employed by Spyce.

Rogers admitted that he along with cofounders Brady Knight, Michael Farid, and Luke Schlueter, (who are affectionately known as the “Spyce Boys”) have learned a lot since opening their restaurant over two years ago. Using that experience in addition to feedback from customers and focus groups, their team has created a blueprint for what the future of the restaurant franchise can look like. 

“When we thought about our first restaurant, we learned so much and so many different things that we thought that we could improve upon, and we realized that the way to do that was to go back to the drawing board,” he said, explaining that instead of expanding by opening new restaurants the Spyce Boys wanted to take the opportunity to improve their current processes first. 

Those improvements have included a total design overhaul of their restaurant and meal packaging, developing an app to deliver online orders, creating a sustainable delivery fleet of electric mopeds, starting to provide catering options, and modifying some of their cooking processes. 

“Originally we had all the ingredients cooking in one wok. But sometimes the sear that you want on the chicken is not the same as the steam that you want on your grains or your pasta, he explained. “[So we asked ourselves] how can we get better at the types of cooking techniques that we’re doing? Simultaneously, how can we rethink how we cook from a process perspective to basically increase the number of meals we can cook in an hour, which for the customer means less waiting...By basically increasing our capacity we open the door to have a lot of ways for guests to interact.”

The Challenges of COVID-19

While Rogers said that pausing their expansion to retool their concept was a challenge itself, the COVID-19 pandemic presented an entirely unexpected and unprecedented challenge to the team as well. 

“It is interesting being in Downtown Boston and we’re used to having bustling offices and being packed side to side on the streets, and that’s different and that’s okay,” said Rogers when reflecting on the changes the pandemic has brought. “For us, what that has meant is how can we figure out how to get food to people that aren’t here. How can we really build an incredible delivery offering? How do we develop a great app that people can use?”

Those questions helped their team develop their sustainable delivery fleet of electric mopeds, a key part of their re-opening and a way they plan to meet the challenges presented by COVID-19. 

“Sustainability is something that is super important, so we wanted to rethink how we could really deliver food from people that are employed by Spyce. That allows us to own the experience end to end and deliver in a way that is sustainable and aligns with our values.”

The cooking processes at Spyce are also remarkably consistent and streamlined, reducing contact and creating a germ-conscious environment that allows for a high level of control and safety for customers.

Rogers also noted the culture that their team developed over the last few years has been key to them meeting the unique challenges all businesses are facing today.

“We had our share of struggles, but one thing we have been really focused on before this [pandemic] and continue to focus on every day is the culture that we are building, the set of values that we share, the mission that we’re here to do each day, and that really creates an organization that I think can battle through challenges and in this time of difficulty grow stronger together.”

Despite the impact that COVID has had, Rogers cited the November 2020 reopening of Spyce’s Downtown Crossing location as one of the most rewarding experiences in their journey thus far.

“We hadn’t had customers because of the renovation and the pandemic for 10-11 months. The ability to have people come in and show them what you’re doing and make them happy is one of the most rewarding things.”

Create The World You Want To Be A Part Of

Back when they first opened their restaurant, the Spyce Boys had this advice for MIT students: “Just go for it.” And while that sentiment has not changed, Rogers, who is also an assistant coach for the varsity men’s water polo team at MIT, did have some advice to add, pointing out the incredible opportunity that MIT students have to impact the world in a positive way.

“I think a lot of people at MIT share this, but one thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot is why do we keep working hard and why do we care to make a delivery fleet? Why do we care to have compostable bags or create good jobs? And for me it’s this idea of you know, I think that each MIT student should really take action to create the future that they want to be a part of. You have been given the skills. You have been given the incredible opportunity to go to one of the best universities in the entire world to get unparalleled education and access to so many incredible things. I think there is some ownership there and some desire that we should have to create the world we want to be a part of,” he explained. 

“So if you are staring at the face of something difficult, I would say take the opportunity to think a little harder and make it happen. To make it more sustainable. To make it better for other people that are working there each day. I would say, create the future you want to be a part of.”

For the latest on MIT Athletics, follow the Engineers via social media on TwitterFacebookInstagram and YouTube