When White Castle's Flippy 2 is allowed to cook, it can produce 30% more fries than its human counterparts.
In September 2020, White Castle welcomed a new member to its back of house staff: Flippy, the fry-cooking robot. The company later upgraded Flippy to a newer model — Flippy 2 — and it has since been deployed in 17 of the chain’s restaurants. But according to one White Castle executive, the Ohio-based burger-maker has plans to put Flippy 2s in around one third of its 350 U.S. locations.
Earlier this month, Jamie Richardson, Vice President Marketing and Public Relations at White Castle, told TODAY that Flippy has “been a win,” and has helped those restaurants boost both their speed and order accuracy. “The team members who work with Flippy are really, really happy and the rollout is going really well," he told the outlet. "We're continuing to roll it out into [White] Castles as we remodel and we've made really, really great and fun progress."
According to Miso Robotics, the company that produces Flippy and other restaurant-focused robots (including Chippy, Chipotle’s automated tortilla chip-maker) the automated worker is meant to take care of “the most repetitive, dangerous, frying work” in the kitchen. Flippy’s tasks include filling the fry baskets, dunking the basket into the hot frying oil, and then moving the hot fries into a holding area. QSR reports that when Flippy 2 is allowed to cook, it can produce 30% more fries than its human counterparts.
But Flippy isn’t meant to replace human workers; while non-Flippy restaurants have two employees in the fryer line, when Flippy is tasked with frying, one of those humans can work the drive-thru window or perform other food prep or customer service tasks.
White Castle isn’t the only chain that is currently embracing automation. In addition to Chippy, Chipotle has also started testing Hyphen, a collaborative robot or “cobot” that can make burrito bowls and salads. “Around 65% of Chipotle’s digital orders consist of bowls or salads, so with Hyphen on board, team members would be freed up to focus on guest experiences, while increasing the amount of digital orders during peak periods,” the company wrote in an Instagram post.
When Hyphen is in the kitchen, the bowls or salads move along a conveyor belt, stopping at “intelligent dispensers” that fill the bowls with pre-set amounts of each ingredient. After being assembled, the finished bowl would be collected by a human worker who puts a lid on it, adds any sides or sauces to the order, and packages it all up.
Although Hyphen is only being tested in the Chipotle Cultivate Center in Irvine, California — it’s not at work in any actual restaurants yet — the company believes it could help each restaurant assemble up to 350 meals every hour.
Honestly, we’re just disappointed that it’s not called Bowly.
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