Fast food chain White Castle will employ flipbots for back-of-house kitchen tasks in 100 locations in the U.S. to enhance productivity and to alleviate staffing shortages due to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) measures.
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White Castle joined forces with food automation developer Miso Robotics in September of 2020, launching a trial of an automated kitchen aid aptly called “Flippy” at a stand-alone eat-out in the greater Chicago area.
“Our partnership with Miso continues to lead the way on what’s next for back of house restaurant operations looking to empower team members with technology to better satisfy customers,” White Castle COO Jeff Carper was quoted as saying in a joint statement between the companies on Feb. 15.
Flippy’s test run apparently went so well that both parties decided on an extension of the trial at the original test location, but this time with an improved version: Flippy 2.
“Following an upgrade to Flippy 2 in November 2021, White Castle’s commitment to Miso’s technology was cemented after seeing an immediate positive impact on daily operations and the productivity of its team members,” the notice read.
“Having Flippy 2 be a new hire at 100 of our White Castle locations keeps us on a path to achieve big goals at White Castle,” Carper added.
“By taking over the work of an entire fry station, Flippy 2 alleviates the pain points that come with back-of-house roles at quick-service restaurants to create a working environment for its human coworkers that maximizes the efficiency of the kitchen,” read promotional verbiage.
Flippy 2 is equipped with cameras and, being directed by AI, can tell the difference between a fry and a burger, allowing it to function and process food on its own accordingly.
Because it operates in a closed-loop system with no humans intervening, a major benefit is the reduction of risk of accidents such as burns and oil dripping. Flippy 2 also works faster than mortals, realizing a 30 percent higher throughput—60 baskets per hour—more than enough for a bigger QSR (quick-service restaurant).
Robotic workforce on the rise
Of course, it’s not the first time food bots have been deployed in the production process, yet in restaurants and serving joints, robots are still an oddity in the catering business.
Nonetheless, not only do the developers expect an improved workflow, they also rationalize that by automating the production process, flesh and blood employees will have more time and headspace to finalize customers’ dining experience with a human touch.
“The improved workflow allows for the redeployment of team members to focus on creating memorable moments for customers, “ the announcement lauded.
Miso CEO Mike Bell, in turn, also praised the cooperation with White Castle, “We could not be more grateful for the confidence White Castle has shown in us as we enter into the next phase of our partnership,” Bell said.
“White Castle was the first large brand to embrace our technology and we are thrilled that our Flippy pilot made such a positive impact on their operations that they want to integrate 100 more. We can’t wait to continue on this journey with such an outstanding partner.”
The rollout of Flippy 2 is still in its planning stages, but will be scheduled per region in nearly one-third of all White Castle’s locales. The Ohio-based company operates some 350 QSR’s in the Midwest, Southwest, and the New York area.
Flippy 2 will come with a starting cost of $3,000 per month, according to the website. The company, which is engaged in several partnerships in the industry, expects to release more models throughout 2022.
Other competitors going automatic
Other chains such as Sonic, McDonald’s, Checkers BurgerFi, Chick-fil-A, Instacart, grocery chain Kroger, and Amazon are working to some degree with AI companies or automatization companies to streamline taking orders in the drive-thru as labor shortages during the COVID-19 regulations and inflation continues.