New burger bot also does chicken wings

From McDonald's to White Castle, automation is coming to fast food. This robot chef wants the job.

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Miso Robotics

A new version of the robotic fry cook looks like the odds on favorite to automate fast food production. Miso Robotics, the creator of Flippy, the automated fry cook that hangs from a rail system over a conventional griddle, just announced a new version of its flagship robot, dubbed Flippy 2.

With a pressing labor shortage and booming drive-thru and carryout demand over nearly two years of pandemic-induced recalibration, fast food has increasingly turned to technology to increase efficiencies and improve consistency and output. McDonald's has been a leader in this arena, and just this week announced it was teaming up with IBM to create an automated drive-thru concept

Miso Robotics, an unusual success story in the crowd-funded technology space, is positioning itself as the go-to provider for automated cooking. The concept makes a lot of sense: fast food is built on repeatable, high-output cooking processes that increasingly rely on complex order management and prediction capabilities to reduce wait times and spoilage. Labor markets have been unpredictable over the past couple of years, and many fast food companies feel incentivized to look for a technological solution when faced with increasing minimum wages.

The evolution of Flippy, the robotic fry cook, designed to automate fast food production, has been fun to watch. First, the robot, which looks decidedly like something out of The Jetsons, did a handstand, going from the floor to an overhead rail system in response to space constraints in the kitchen. There were key updates to its AI and an expanding menu of foods it could prepare to crispy perfection. Along the way, the robot got high marks behind the grill at some iconic chains, like White Castle, the original burger chain. Just recently, Miso Robotics, Flippy's creators, spun out a chicken wings-specific model to service partners like Buffalo Wild Wings.

Flippy 2 includes improvements that largely came from the company's feedback from White Castle, with which Miso Robotics has been partnering for about a year.

"We learned so much from Flippy and our partnership with Miso Robotics. It's amazing to see the future of how we provide even better service and even more hot and tasty food to our craving customers happening right before us in real-time," says Jamie Richardson, Vice President at White Castle. 

One improvement is the new AutoBin system for lower volume and speciality foods like onion rings or chicken tenders, providing restaurants with a more capable and complete frying solution. Each bin can hold as much as a full fry basket, be customized for a kitchen's specific needs, and be delineated for individual products like vegetables and fish to prevent cross-contamination.

Flippy 2 also features a new design that takes up less space within the kitchen, which the company says accounts for 56% reduced aisle intrusion, 13% height reduction and fewer overall cleanable surfaces.

"Like all technologies, Flippy 2 has evolved significantly from its predecessor, and we are extremely grateful for the insights collected from White Castle to truly push its development forward in a real restaurant environment," says Mike Bell, CEO of Miso Robotics. "Flippy 2 takes up less space in the kitchen and increases production exponentially with its new basket filling, emptying and returning capabilities. Since Flippy's inception, our goal has always been to provide a customizable solution that can function harmoniously with any kitchen and without disruption. Flippy 2 has more than 120 configurations built into its technology and is the only robotic fry station currently being produced at scale."     

Miso Robotics has several other pilot agreements with leading national brands in place, including its recently announced partnership with Inspire Brands. The company is hoping its technology will lead the way in a technology shift already happening in the $278.6 billion market.