Restaurateurs are one step closer to robotic kitchens now that Miso Robotics is selling Flippy ROAR — a suspended grilling and cooking robot — to any foodservice kitchen.
Several White Castle locations have tested Flippy ROAR, an acronym for Robot-On-A-Rail, which works as a robotic arm that can produce vast amounts of grilled or fried products. Since it’s suspended on an overhead rail or track system, it uses no kitchen floor space and is designed to meet the needs of fast food kitchens where time is of the essence, a Miso Robotics spokeswoman said in an email to this website.
“We bring automation to restaurants that are struggling with kitchen staff restrictions amid social distancing, the need to speed up production to meet delivery demand, and shrinking profit margins that threaten to bring them to closure,” Miso Robotics President and Chairman Buck Jordan told QSRweb in an interview. “More than 20,000 restaurants have closed since the pandemic hit, and it’s our conjecture that automation is the only path forward for the survival of the industry.”
“After we shared a sneak peek of the prototype … we’ve seen demand through the roof from operators, especially in light of COVID-19.”
-Miso Robotics CEO Mike Bell
Miso Robotics is offering financing options for its approximately $30,000 product to expedite adoption in restaurant kitchens. Flippy also involves a $1,500 monthly SaaS fee to cover software updates, maintenance and related issues, a spokeswoman told QSRweb. The company said it sees the technology as critical to answering the challenges brought on by the pandemic limiting the number of indoor staff and diners, as well as addressing increased sanitation standards and the need to boost margins as delivery and takeout increase in popularity.
“After we shared a sneak peek of the prototype in January, we’ve seen demand through the roof from operators, especially in light of COVID-19,” Miso Robotics CEO Mike Bell said in a news release about the product launch today. “Miso Robotics is confident that this demand will set us up for success and provide the automation the industry needs to not only recover but accelerate growth.”
How it works
As Flippy ROAR glides across workstations, it remains out of the path of kitchen staff to increase safety and throughput by interacting with a food hopper that dispenses the required amount of a given item before moving to the cooking station. The robot’s software has also been updated to help help kitchen workers with operational interactions and workflows through a dashboard view of the web-based application on a touchscreen monitor mounted on the ROAR system.
That dashboard gives QSR employees a view of what’s next in line for preparation, while the robots software enables it to actually learn and reclassify new foods as they are introduced. Staff can also opt to change cooking times and alter portion sizes for foods coming out of the hopper comply with customer customization requests.
“Flippy’s AI has been advanced to quickly learn new food items and scale menus. Our neural networks can now be trained, in some cases as quickly as in 30 minutes, to identify new foods and address how to cook them to consistent perfection. This gives operators an ability to diversify menus quickly to attract new customers and keep up food trends driving demand.”
That learning has allowed the robot to now master cooking for 19 different foods, according to Miso Robotics.
“The new design is optimized to cook 19 different products, which include traditional burgers and Impossible Burgers on the grilling side,” Jordan said. “On the frying side, chicken tenders, chicken bites, chicken wings, chicken rings, popcorn chicken, fish fillets, fish bites, popcorn shrimp, corn dogs, tater tots, French fries, cheese sticks, potato wedges, sweet potato waffle fries, regular potato waffle fries, onion rings and hash browns.
“In addition, Flippy’s AI has been advanced to quickly learn new food items and scale menus. Our neural networks can now be trained, in some cases as quickly as in 30 minutes, to identify new foods and address how to cook them to consistent perfection. This gives operators an ability to diversify menus quickly to attract new customers and keep up food trends driving demand.”
Miso Robotics said the need to minimize the risk of contamination and maximize sanitation is one reason that the company is bringing the robot to market with NSF International certification. An independent, global public health organization that certifies products to regulatory standards and protocols, NSF ensures health and cleanliness standards are incorporated into new product designs.
“Certification to NSF/ANSI food equipment standards mean Flippy ROAR meets rigorous requirements for material safety, hygienic design and performance,” Sara Risley, associate managing director of food equipment at NSF International, said. “The NSF mark signifies Miso Robotics’ commitment to health and safety – providing reassurance that the product can be easily cleaned to prevent foodborne illness and won’t leach harmful chemicals into food.”
Flippy ROAR gives operators a certified product to decrease human contact in the cooking process and recent partnerships with PopID and Pathspot will further bring less contamination and spread of viral infections to future kitchen environments.
Although nearly simultaneous with the announcement of commercial availability for Flippy ROAR, the company said the robot’s test with White Castle did not play a huge role in the product being presented to market but admitted they were providing invaluable field insights into how the technology works in restaurants.
“Miso Robotics was already on track to deliver Flippy to the wider industry that was plagued by labor challenges, new trends in takeout and delivery and increasing operational costs like the cost of real estate/rentals,” Jordan said. “Really, when the pandemic hit we had to accelerate our rollout in order to meet the critical need that was hitting the industry for automation.
“White Castle — much like all the other major quick-service restaurant brands calling us — was already looking at automation as a solution to improve operational efficiencies, create a better work environment for employees and enhance customer service. While the current pilot at White Castle is certainly providing new insights that could enhance Flippy down the line, as all implementations of a technology do, Miso Robotics has built ROAR in the immediate to address the challenges of the full industry.”