Hot off a $10 million Series B funding round, Miso Robotics’s burger-flipping robot, Flippy, had its official first day of work today at a Caliburger fast food restaurant in Pasadena, Calif.
Flippy uses 3D, thermal and camera vision to perceive what’s on a grill. A digital system sends orders back to the robot. The robot monitors up to 12 patties at a time, tracking each burger’s cook-time and temperature. It uses a spatula as an end effector, essentially, to flip the burgers when necessary. Flippy then alerts human cooks when it’s time to apply cheese or other toppings. Flippy also needs humans to place the patties on the grill.
The burger-flipping robot is reportedly capable of grilling 150 burgers per hour. It also cleans dirty spatulas and can wipe down the grill with a scraper. Flippy is controlled by Miso’s artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Not only does the AI handle real-time decision making and object recognition, Miso’s AI helps Flippy improve and adapt to changing menus and demand.
We’ve reached out to Miso to learn how Caliburger’s newest employee performed on Day 1. We’ll update this space when we hear back.
Just the Beginning of Fast Food Automation
This is just the beginning of automation disrupting the fast food industry. Many fast food restaurants have replaced human cashiers with automated kiosks, but robots are starting to enter the kitchen with Miso.
Minimum wage increases are sending shock waves across the fast food industry. Especially in California, which is raising its minimum wage from $10 an hour in 2016 to $15 by 2022 and indexing it to inflation thereafter. Many critics of the $15 minimum wage said it will expedite low-skill jobs being replaced by automation.
“I guarantee you if a $15 minimum wage goes across the country you’re going to see a job loss like you can’t believe,” Edward Rensi, former CEO of McDonald’s, said in 2016. “It’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who’s inefficient making $15 an hour bagging French fries.”
Now Flippy isn’t bagging fries, yet, it costs about $60,000, and there’s a 20-percent recurring annual fee for the robot’s learning and maintenance. But Caliburger is confident Flippy will help it increase productivity and consistency and reduce wait times and food waste. The Pasadena Caliburger is the first of 50 locations Flippy will start working at in 2018.
Miso said it sees Flippy as being the third hand in the kitchen. “Our mission is to improve working conditions of chefs and line cooks with assistants, not replace them,” said David Zito, co-founder and chief executive officer of Miso Robotics. “Anyone who’s ever worked in a restaurant knows how hard the work is and the value of extra hands and that’s exactly what we built.”
A recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute found that fast food was among the industries most vulnerable to automation.
Miso Robotics Partners with Levy
Serving food in sports venues can be even more challenging than in fast food restaurants. Miso also announced today a partnership with sports and entertainment venue company Levy. Flippy will be used in an unnamed venue before the end of 2018. In February 2018, Levy participated in Miso’s $10 million Series B funding.
“We understand that our guests desire exceptional experiences and we’re committed to making sure each one we serve has the most memorable and frictionless dining experiences possible,” said Andy Lansing, president and chief executive officer of Levy. “What appealed to us most in partnering with Miso Robotics is our shared vision in changing the way food is prepared through advanced technology. Their platform will enable us to operate more efficiently, control waste, decrease wait times, enhance consistency and, most importantly, meet guests’ needs.”
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