There’s A New Chef At St. John’s University, And It’s Not Who (Or What) You Think

The intelligent, self-operating RoboBurger has entered St. John’s University with a mission to provide students with quickly cooked and high quality burgers.

Torch Photo / Olivia Seaman

Decades ago, it was thought that there would be robots everywhere by 2022 — robot doctors, robot employees and even robot chefs! Well now, there is a robot chef at St. John’s University, but not in the way one might think.

RoboBuger, a vending machine that cooks a burger in roughly four minutes, now joins Starbucks as a food option for students on the third floor of the D’Angelo Center at St. John’s University. 

Founded in 2019 by three passionate foodies, RoboBurger has reinvented fast food into an easily accessible meal with high-quality ingredients such as angus beef patties, potato roll buns and aged cheese, according to the company’s website. RoboBurger aims to change the way people get and eat burgers, debunking the notion that “fast food” correlates with low-quality. RoboBurger is “fast food” in the sense that it cooks a burger from scratch within four minutes.

The robot is “equipped with a complex, miniature kitchen consisting of a refrigeration system to keep ingredients fresh, a griddle to cook and a dishwasher system to allow the unit to self-clean,” per RoboBurger. It is the most compact vending machine-sized kitchen that has cooked a burger, providing people with hot food any time DAC is open.

RoboBurger claims it is the first plug-in burger “chef in a box” that provides hot, fresh and affordable meals to students, workers or just about anyone. This machine makes it extremely easy for students to have a meal while studying for finals late into the night, or for busy employees to enjoy a hot meal for$6.99 — rather than a single candy bar from a vending machine during their much-needed breaks. 

Despite the easy access and affordable pricing, RoboBurger was met with reluctance from some St. John’s students. Senior Greg Auteri noted that he “was very hesitant to try the burger because I thought, like many, there is no way a burger from a vending machine can be in any sense tasteful.” However, Auteri found that the burger “exceeded [his] expectations. It was not terrible but not amazing. I wouldn’t get this burger everyday, but if I ever find myself hungry again at school, I’d definitely give it another go.”

Sophomore Sarah Esposito had similar feelings towards the taste, quality and accessibility of the machine. “I was nervous to try it because it’s a burger from a vending machine – it sounds a little weird,” Esposito admitted. “Overall, I thought the RoboBurger experience as a whole was pretty good; the burger’s flavor was really nice and much better than I thought, though I would still rate it a six out of ten.”

The placement of RoboBurger in DAC right next to Starbucks encountered mixed reviews. Auteri stated, “I like the placement because right after you purchase a drink from Starbucks, you can walk over, order a burger and wait five minutes for it to be hot and ready.” 

“The only thing I don’t like is that it makes DAC smell like burgers,” junior Elisabeth Casey said about DAC’s new scent “I don’t like the placement at all. [DAC] used to smell so good because of the freshly brewed coffee, but now it has a sickening smell of greasy burgers.” 

The overwhelming scent of cooked burgers can be a turn-off for many people, especially those who are vegan or vegetarian; it can also displease visiting prospective students as well as the University’s own student body. 

RoboBurger is the only hot food vending machine that is certified by the National Sanitary Foundation to the highest food safety regulations. Therefore, regardless of the negatives, the higher quality of the RoboBurger can be recognized. 

“It was clearly fresh, the bun was soft, the seasoning was on par and the burger itself was not dry at all,” Auteri added. 

If SJU students are intrigued by the RoboBurger, it might be worth pushing past the initial smell and giving the burgers a try.