Robots can flip burgers and fry sides, and Miso Robotics is selling its burger-flipping robot as the perfect fry cook for the COVID-19 era.
Robot assistant Flippy just became commercially available for $30,000, or on a payment plan, with plans to eventually lower the price. Flippy is attached to a rail under the kitchen hood to move back and forth while manning the grill and fryer.
"After we shared a sneak peek of the prototype in January, we've seen demand through the roof from operators, especially in light of COVID-19" Miso Robotics CEO Mike Bell said in a press release. The coronavirus pandemic has hit restaurants hard, but fast-food chains have recovered faster with the drive-thru and takeout business not relying on indoor dining, compared to fast-casual chains.
During the pandemic, fast food employees have become essential workers, and labor issues like lack of paid sick time and low wages were thrown into the spotlight. Robots like Flippy in the kitchen could keep fast food locations competitive despite "smaller margins, less foot traffic and new health and safety concerns," Miso says.
Here's how Flippy works.
Miso first introduced Flippy at the grill in 2018, as the first burger flipping robot in the world. It could grill 150 burgers each hour.
The first version of Flippy could detect when raw patties were placed on the grill and monitor them to cook to order. It also cleaned spatulas and scraped the grill in between burgers.
Later that year, Flippy also gained the ability to work as a frying assistant, piloted at Dodger Stadium.
Flippy was able to place baskets in the fryer, shake baskets in oil, and monitor for appropriate cooking time to make chicken tenders and tots.
In January 2020, Miso announced an updated Flippy operating while attached to a rail.
The design was created to assist busy cooks in a quick-service kitchen, installed under a kitchen hood to move along equipment while staying out of the staff's way.
By 2020, Flippy had contracts with Dodger Stadium, Chase Field, and multiple CaliBurger locations.
In 2019, Flippy served more than 15,000 burgers and over 31,000 lbs of chicken tenders and tots.
In July, burger chain White Castle announced a partnership with Flippy.
In the midst of a pandemic, implementing Flippy is also a way to reduce human contact with food before it is served, and hopefully, also reduce virus transmission.
For further food safety, Miso teamed up with Pathspot Technologies, which can scan employees' hands after washing to ensure that they are safe to handle food.
Advances in Flippy and its AI technology have made it work better with human staff while taking over some of the most dangerous jobs, like frying.
ChefUI, Miso's proprietary software, can identify food types and temperatures, and learn new foods.
A monitor on the robot tells the staff what orders are up next, and staff can also adjust cooking times here for custom orders.
All these advancements made Flippy more sophisticated, and it can now cook 19 foods including burgers, chicken wings, onion rings, and more.
Updates have also allowed Flippy to properly cook the Impossible Burger, which has a different texture and thickness than a traditional burger, so it requires a different grilling technique.
Flippy is able to be completely washed down, and tools are automatically switched and cleaned too.
Miso touts Flippy's ability to cook a menu item consistently over and over again, the key to the fast-food chain experience.