Designed by Miso Robotics, Flippy, Chippy, and Sippy robots are made to replace employee functions like cooking food and pouring drinks.
Hollywood has long foretold the inclusion of robots into daily life. From the Jetsons to iRobot, seeing robots mingling with humans has become the norm – on screen. Now, you may get the chance in real life, thanks to news that fast-food restaurants are starting to “hire” robot workers.
Chili’s offered diners a sneak peek at co-robot living. The popular chain made news in 2020 over its addition of “Rita the Robot,” who helped serve customers amidst staffing shortages. At the time, it seemed a novel and amusing concept to many.
However, the transition from human to robot is working out quite well. Chili’s has expanded its use of Rita, putting her to work in over 50 locations nationwide. Now, some fast-food restaurants have decided to dip their toes into the AI waters.
Jack-in-the-Box made news in July when they debuted a fry-cooking robot at a Chula Vista, California, location. Its name is Flippy, and its sole job is to cook your fries to perfection. Thanks to its programming, Flippy’s AI sensors can detect food and know when to remove it from the oil.
Flippy is the brainchild of Miso Robotics. According to a report from Fortune, the tech company spent $50 million to develop the technology. Getting it up and running in the kitchen cost another $5,000, and the monthly rental fee is $3,500.
It may feel like a hefty price tag just for a fry-cooking machine. But it could prove to be a more stable investment than hiring people. After all, Flippy won’t up and quit without notice…or call in sick.
The fry master Flippy is not the only specialized robot to come out of Miso Robotics. The company has developed a few other models specifically geared toward fast-food work. They also recently launched Chippy at a few select Chipotle locations.
Its specialty is cooking the tortilla chips that the fast-food restaurant is famous for. And the aptly named third model is Sippy. It can pour and seal drinks, then serve them to customers.
Between the three Miso Robotics models and other robots currently working in the restaurant industry, it appears robots may be poised to take over food service work. Consumers have greeted this news with mixed emotions. A report released by Restaurant Dive in April indicated that around 33% of consumers don’t want robots making food.
However, the ongoing staffing shortages plaguing fast-food restaurants may ultimately be the tipping point. Millions of restaurant workers were furloughed or lost their jobs due to the pandemic. And the locations that survived the shutdowns are struggling to re-hire.
According to the National Restaurant Association, the industry is down 750,000 jobs from pre-pandemic levels. The staffing trouble has negatively impacted overall customer experience and satisfaction. Labor issues hit fast-food restaurants especially hard.
So between trouble finding staff and retaining them, a shift to robotic workers is not out of the question. With Jack-in-the-Box and Chipotle leading the charge, we may see many other fast-food locations follow. So keep your eye on the deep fryer next time you’re in – you may see a shiny new employee.