“There’s so much enthusiasm and excitement around the fact here we are, in the grand scheme of things, we’re not a multi-global chain—we’re a family owned business of 365 restaurants, but we’re able to be nimble and pride in terms of being able to be first,” he says. “This is one that’s we’re excited to be the first on board with a big investment like this and we think it’s going to be pay great dividends for the team and also our customers.”
Miso Robotics introduced the prototype for Flippy ROAR in January based on feedback from quick-service operators. The goal was to move Flippy to an upside-down rail. It can now be installed under a standard kitchen hood, where Flippy moves along a line of kitchen equipment, out of the way of other cooks and employees.
Essentially, the result is a zero-footprint product that lowers the cost of automated kitchen equipment. Jordan says it runs roughly $30,000 and Miso Robotics is working to bring the price down and make it available at no upfront cost to restaurants. It can be installed in a day, ideally during a nightshift.
This past year, Miso Robotics’ Flippy was in multiple CaliBurger locations and at Dodger Stadium and Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The company said it served up more than 15,000 burgers and north of 31,000 pounds of chicken tenders and tots. Flippy evolved to cook more than a dozen types of food, including chicken wings, onion rings, popcorn shrimp, sweet potato waffle fries and corn dogs.
Jordan says Flippy isn’t automating how to make French fries, per se; it’s automating how a human chef’s arm moves. The new rail allows for a mobile experience that can shift between roles. Burger flipping one moment, prep work the next.
“And we’ve found that whenever we put our system into a kitchen, the workers tend to love it because now all of sudden they’re working with really high-level technology with high-tech equipment that makes life a lot easier,” he adds. “They’re running an iPad. They think it’s pretty cool. And what an amazing environment for an entry level worker to be in.”
White Castle says the pilot will look at speeds in production, taste, quality, and operational optimization with backend point-of-sale integration. Flippy ROAR will see if it can improve employee and food preparation.
Richardson says initial focus will be on running the fryer, making French fries, onion chips and rings, cheese sticks, chicken wings, and frying breaded fish and chicken for sandwiches. It won't prepare White Castle's beef sliders, which would be difficult to automate. The chain famously “sets the grill,” putting down a bed of onions and placing beef on top.
Jordan adds Miso Robotics works with PathSpot, a company that makes hand scanners to monitor handwashing effectiveness and frequency, and PopID, which can scan to make sure employees don’t have fevers when they’re operating the device. This way there’s no concern over whether or not Flippy is COVID-condition ready.
Richardson jokes it “has been a long interview to hire Flippy,” as White Castle prepares to market the move. But the first directive is to be open with employees and share steps along the way. He isn’t sure, categorically, what influence Flippy will have on consumer confidence, but he’s hopeful.
“We’ve been consistently focused on innovation,” Richardson says. “I’d say the last four or five years we’ve really concentrated a lot on creating the kitchen of tomorrow today. So when we learned about Miso Robotics and Flippy, that conversation got started. And we’ve been real impressed. It’s been a great partnership. And we’re excited to take it to the next step.”
“White Castle is an industry innovator, and we take a great amount of pride in our history – never forgetting about the future ahead,” added Lisa Ingram, fourth-generation family leader and CEO of White Castle, in a statement. “With 100 years of quick service success, the time has never been more perfect to envision what the next century of White Castle and the restaurant industry looks like. Miso Robotics understood where we could improve and stay true to White Castle’s brand of taste, innovation and best-in-class dining. A great customer and employee experience is in our DNA, and we are thrilled to bring the future into our kitchen with solutions that will transform the industry and make the White Castle experience all that it can be for generations to come.”