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A fully autonomous grab & go food store is due to open in London.

The first Tahina store will offer own-brand plant-based fast food and work in a similar way to Amazon’s ‘Just Walk Out’ Fresh stores. Customers will register once on their first visit, then walk through the store and select items from shelves before walking out. They’ll receive a receipt within around a minute of leaving.

Despite the use of AI, weighted shelves, motion detector sensors and high-speed cloud computing underpinning the shopping experience, the stores will be manned.

“The staff will focus on the customer experience over the transaction”, Tahina co-founder Emilio Malik told The Grocer, “to introduce and promote the benefits of the concept: marrying technology and sustainability.

“We are in the hospitality business after all. We are introducing the autonomous retail technology to free people from repetitive, low-human interaction value tasks for which the technology is most adapted,” he added.

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Malik and co-founder Javier Troitino-Ramos run West End restaurant Lazeez Lebanese Tapas, which has been a fixture of Mayfair’s Duke Street for the last 16 years. Between them they have decades of experience in the food industry, having worked for brands including Aubaine, Eat, Mitchells & Butlers and Yo Sushi.

While the debut Tahina store will have limited seating, the pair are working on “a variety of formats, from small kiosks to larger lay-outs with a distinct retail and seating area” Malik said.

The company will also establish contract stores designed to be installed in access-controlled environments, such as offices, shared workspaces, hospitals, university campuses and airports. Customers will also be able to preorder and reserve their selection ahead of collection via a dedicated app.

“Ultimately, we believe the concept is flexible enough to be adjusted to a range of environments,” Malik added.

Sustainability will be a focus of the new brand. “All our dishes are plant-based, cruelty-free and seasonal, and we support local suppliers where possible. Our store will have a closed-loop recycling system for packaging, and we’ll work with charities to distribute surplus food or turn it into green electricity,” Malik said.

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Autonomous stores are ever-increasing in number in the UK, and being launched by both large established supermarkets and startups. The likes of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Aldi have all launched checkout-free stores in recent years. Amazon has pioneered the shopping experience, and now has 20 checkout-free Fresh stores in the UK. The tech is also being used in smaller convenience format settings.

“We are leveraging the autonomous technology to offer to the public a truly tasty, healthy and sustainable menu at a cost affordable by everyone, every day,” Malik said. “Fast convenient food doesn’t have to be tasteless or unhealthy or priced too high to change people’s more wasteful habits.

“The world is changing rapidly and we’ve crafted Tahina around these new ways of living. We’re really excited about the possibilities,” he added.