This fall 2020 semester, Washington University in St. Louis has introduced a dining option that replaces the need for a traditional salad bar: Sally the Salad Robot. You select your ingredients and then she—Sally, the robot—creates a salad for you. It's a contactless, COVID-friendly option. I tested it out to provide you with my experience and tips, so here's how it works.

The Experience

Olivia Sterenfeld

I walked to the South 40 to use the machine outside of Paws & Go in the Bear's Den. But, thankfully, there is now a robot installed in the Village Dining Hall, making Sally accessible to more students. 

The screen on the front of the robot directed me to select my salad ingredients. Sally gave me the options for a base, of which I could select a maximum of two. I then chose up to six toppings from a list of options. Thirdly and lastly, I was asked which dressing I wanted.

I ordered a salad with a base of spinach and quinoa. For my toppings, I selected herbed tofu (for some protein), cucumber, tomatoes, kalamata olives, bell peppers, and red onion—all dressed in balsamic vinaigrette. The other base option was romaine lettuce, and other toppings include various cheeses, broccoli (which was sold out), and croutons.

After choosing my ingredients, the machine instructed me to take a bowl from a stack on a table next to Sally and place it in a designated slot on the front of the machine. Next, I watched as Sally made my salad. There are different containers, each holding an ingredient, inside of the robot and visible to the customer, allowing you to experience the entire salad-making process. The contents of each container of my selected ingredients were dispensed into my bowl, one at a time. Once the robot was finished dispensing the ingredients, I retrieved my bowl and got to enjoy my salad.

Final Thoughts

Olivia Sterenfeld

Sally the Salad Robot was straightforward and easy to navigate. When I retrieved my bowl from the robot, I found a beautifully-constructed salad. It was well-made and delicious, and I plan to use the machine again soon.

However, one of my complaints about the process is that the method of taking a bowl from a stack of bowls is neither sanitary nor mindful of the pandemic. To get the bowl from the top of the stack, I had to pull said bowl from the stack, which could require that I touch the bowls beneath that top bowl. That potentially unsanitary process kind of defeats the purpose of the contactless, pandemic-friendly robot itself. I also wish that Sally would accept meal points. But, at least she does take Bear Bucks.

I'd love to see some more base and topping options, too. Kale would be a great and likely popular base option. Additional topping options could be chickpeas and craisins or fresh fruit (like apple slices) to add some natural sweetness.

Overall, I am happy with my Sally the Salad Robot experience and know where I'm heading next time I want a quick-to-make, healthy dining option. I'd highly recommend trying out the robot  if you ever want an easy meal or need a salad fix.