Miso Robotics' automated fry cook ‘Flippy’, which teamed up with White Castle as part of a pilot program last year, has been given an upgrade following feedback from employees.
According to the Pasadena, California-based artificial intelligence firm, the fast-food hamburger chain has been "impressed and pleased with productivity gains Flippy has brought to daily operations." However, employees noted during the pilot that there was still a need for human assistance on both sides of the robot to load the uncooked product and unload the cooked food due to the fact that basket management wasn't automated.
As a result, the company has developed Flippy 2, which can take over the work for an entire fry station and perform more than twice as many food preparation tasks as its previous iteration, including basket filling, emptying and returning.
Flippy 2 features a brand-new system called AutoBin, which is used for lower volume and specialty foods like onion rings or chicken tenders. 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.
The robot's AI vision can automatically identify food, pick it up, cook it in the correct fry basket and place the cooked food into a holding area without the need for human intervention, lowering the risk of potential oil dripping and burns caused by lifting and moving baskets.
Miso says Flippy 2, which has more than 120 configurations built into its technology, is able to increase kitchen throughput by 30%, or around 60 baskets per hour. Flippy 2 also takes up less space than its predecessor, with a 56% reduced aisle intrusion, 13% height reduction and fewer overall cleanable surfaces. A Miso spokesperson told FOX Business that Flippy can cost around $3,000 a month depending on its configuration.
Following the conclusion of Flippy's pilot, Miso Robotics is looking to expand the technology to additional locations. The company is in talks with dozens of brands to launch pilot programs over the next few months and in 2022.
In addition to White Castle, Miso Robotics reached an agreement with Buffalo Wild Wings parent Inspire Brands to test Flippy Wings, which is designed for frying chicken and buffalo wings, at its Innovation Center this fall. Center. Other partners include Levy Restaurants, Compass Group and CaliBurger.
Miso Robotics, which is primarily funded by individual investors, has nearly 15,000 shareholders. The company has raised more than $30 million in crowdfunding to date and is currently in a Series D funding round, which kicked off with a market valuation of $350 million and recently surpassed $10 million in new investments.
The spokesperson noted that Miso "may eventually consider doing an IPO – but only when the time is right." For now, Miso says it is "laser-focused on growing the company, improving their products, scaling their business and continuing to expand their partnerships with industry-leading restaurants in the U.S. and abroad."
Flippy's upgrade comes as White Castle and other restaurants are looking to adapt as the food service industry is dealing with a shortage of workers. The National Restaurant Association found nearly 4 in 5 restaurants reported being understaffed in September, including 81% of full-service operators and 75% of limited service operators.
In addition to robotic fry cooks, McDonald's recently announced that it was partnering with IBM to develop its automated drive-thru lanes after launching a pilot of the technology at 10 of its locations in Chicago.