Cala, a French startup using advanced robotics to make high-quality meals accessible to everybody, has today announced a €5.5 million Seed investment, led by BACKED VC. Other investors to participate in the round are Possible Ventures, Kima Ventures, Quiet Ventures and Acequia Capital. The fresh capital will be used to expand its fully autonomous restaurant chain in France, and explore new locations in Europe.
Cala has built the first fully robotic pasta restaurant in the world. The young company created a pasta-making robot to autonomously cook affordable, nutritious, sustainable and delicious meals, and transform the cost and experience of fast-casual dining. Founded in 2017 by engineering students, the idea for the company came from their own experiences in finding it hard to eat good quality and convenient food on a student budget and a belief that technology held the answer.
Ylan Richard, Co-founder and CEO of Cala, said, “As students we were frustrated by the cost and lack of healthy meals available to us. Through our research, and driven by our own stomachs, we could see that the food service industry is broken. In fast food, the low-profit margin means that it’s impossible to use higher quality ingredients. We realised that if you could automate the meal preparation, you could rapidly increase the number of meals being produced and improve the economics. We decided to focus on pasta as it can be customised and we could also reduce the number of meals that include meat, offering customers delicious food that is more sustainable, healthy and affordable. We’ve been building and iterating on our robot and our autonomous kitchen can now make 400 pasta dishes in one hour.”
Cala has been built by Co-Founders Ylan Richard, a former engineering student who dropped out of university aged 19 to pursue building Cala; Julien Drago, who deepened his manufacturing expertise whilst working at a makerspace; and Nicolas Barboni, who previously built a travel startup before selling to a competitor. Early supporters of Cala include The Family, angel investor Jerome Tafani, CEO of Burger King France and angel investor Thibaud Elziere, Founder of Fotolia and eFounders. To date the company has raised €6.5 million, following a €1 million pre-seed investment in 2019.
The latest investment will be used by Cala to expand the number of restaurant locations it has in France. The team of 24 based in Paris is exploring more restaurant locations around Europe and is hiring across its engineering, product and operations teams.
Earlier in 2021 Cala’s first restaurant opened in Paris’ fifth arrondissement. Customers order food via a terminal in the restaurant and select the type of pasta and sauce that they want. The robot then prepares the order and is entirely visible to customers in the restaurant. Cala is also available across delivery apps, including UberEats, and Deliveroo, which currently make up 95% of its business. Since it started, Cala has prepared 25,000 meals and its gross merchandise value (GMV) is growing at 92% month-on-month.
Andre de Haes, Founding Partner at BACKED VC, added, “We believe Ylan and the Cala team can transform the European fast-casual dining experience. They have the raw talent: it’s remarkable seeing a team of 23-year-olds execute at this pace. Not only has Cala built extremely advanced pasta-making robots, but they also have the branding talent which should make Cala a household name. Cala is riding major macro trends: a growing demand for healthy affordable food, the changing economics of high street retail and the increasing acceptance of advanced robotics in daily lives. The proof is in the pasta – the first store has remarkable ratings.”
Jerome Tafani, angel investor in Cala and CEO of Burger King France, said, “I’m incredibly proud to be invested in the Cala team and to support them. They are breaking new ground in the fast-food industry. Technology is a huge component to making healthy, affordable, and sustainable meals, for a new customer journey designed for future ways of eating.”