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Next month, White Castle is introducing Flippy the Robot in one of its Chicago restaurants. Flippy is a robotic arm that moves on a rail and flips burgers. It also capable of performing basic kitchen tasks.
An earlier version of Flippy made headlines in 2018. Miso Robotics had introduced the original Flippy at a CaliBurger restaurant in California, but that Flippy failed. The robot was too slow and CaliBurger pulled the plug on Flippy after the first day. In addition to flipping burgers, the new, improved, and faster Flippy can steam them, monitor food temperature, and operate fryers.
Flippy is meant to limit human contact with food and its sensors help determine when the meat is thoroughly cooked to prevent disease transmission. COVID-19 pushed Miso Robotics and White Castle to move forward with their partnership. White Castle Vice President Jamie Richardson says customers now want touch-free dining experiences and, unlike employees who get sick or who need time off, Flippy can reliably cook the restaurant’s food all day long with no overtime or vacation pay required.
Flippy is entering the test phase, but if the September pilot succeeds, then what happens to the people who used to steam those burgers and fry those fries before? They won’t hit the unemployment line according to Richardson. Instead, they will be moved to other roles. Union organizers are skeptical and say automation will eliminate fast-food jobs, Wall Street Journal reports.
White Castle’s rival and the industry leader, McDonald’s is also using more and more automation. The company began testing its first voice-activated drive-thru in Chicago last year. The goal was to get food to customers faster and speed matters a lot in the competitive fight for cheeseburger lovers. That’s why McDonald’s is turning to voice recognition to save some of those seconds. McDonald’s purchased an AI voice recognition company, Apprente, in September 2019.
The Apprente team became the center of McDonald’s new silicon valley technology lab, McD Tech Labs, which is developed in the AI-powered drive-thrus. The lab is in the process of hiring more engineers, data scientists, and other technologists. There is no word out on when the technology will be put into use. Fast food leaders are hoping that automation will fix huge labor gaps and provide faster more efficient service.
What do you think about White Castle’s goal to make contactless fast food through Flippy the Robot? Let us know down in the comments.
This article originally published on GREY Journal.