The repetitive, low-skilled, simple recipe, fast-food sector is ripe for automation.
Like many other sectors, the restaurant industry has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and has been forced to re-examine business operations and best practices.
Now, a new low-cost robot built by US-based Miso Robotics may provide an ideal solution.
Miso’s robotic kitchen assistant, that can be bought for just under A$40,000, is attracting widespread interest from restaurant owners and fast-food chains.
Operating on overhead rails, the robotic system can move around the kitchen and cook up to 19 different food items, including chicken, fries, onion rings, and hash browns.
The back-end of the Miso robotic system, which controls each robotic station is called ChefUI. This allows for other kitchen staff to interact with the robotic system via a 39.6cm touchscreen.
In the US alone, the fast-food market was valued at US$647.7 billion in 2019 and is estimated to reach US$931.7 billion by 2027.
As of last year, McDonald’s had more than 36,000 restaurants across 119 countries pulling in nearly 68 million customers per day.
AI gives this robot a winning edge
And while there have been several previous experiments with burger-flipping robots and waiters, Miso Robotics takes this technology to another level.
Miso Robotics offers special artificial intelligence (AI), which enables the system to both understand its environment, and learn from it.
The robot can observe the kitchen and identify the correct utensils and food around the kitchen, without specially-prepared labels or guidance. The robotic system also integrates AI and learning capabilities making it able to reclassify new foods, how to cook them, and how to learn from past mistakes based on customer feedback.
In September, White Castle, a leading US fast-food hamburger chain, started a trial run with Miso’s Flippy robot at one of its Chicago locations. The fast-food chain is now expanding the program to include 10 more restaurants.
White Castle will bring the new version of Flippy, Robot-on-a-Rail (ROAR), into kitchens for testing and future integration. The deployment will put autonomous frying to work for enhanced production speeds, improved labour allocation and an added layer of health and safety in the cooking process.
With Flippy in the kitchen automating repetitive, time consuming and dangerous tasks like frying, team members can be redeployed to more customer-experience driven tasks.
White Castle’s decision to pilot Flippy in its kitchens could reduce human contact with food during the cooking process – reducing potential for transmission of food pathogens.
The implementation also brings intelligence to cooking, tapping into sensors, intelligent monitoring and anticipated kitchen needs to keep food temperatures consistent, that ensure optimal quality and a perfect bite for customers.
“Artificial intelligence and robotics brings a very real opportunity to continuously enhance the cooking process and optimize taste for restaurants,” said Buck Jordan, CEO and Co-Founder of Miso Robotics.
“White Castle’s brand is iconic, navigating new challenges to bring their menu to more customers, prepared in a healthier environment by staff in better working conditions that adhere to social distancing needs is something only Miso Robotics can do, he said.
The fast food chain owns and operates more than 365 restaurants across the US.
“We look forward to being a part of White Castle’s next 100 years,” Mr Jordan said.