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Flippy Is the Burger-Flipping Robot That's Modernizing Fast Food Kitchens

White Castle's adding the robot to more locations in 2021.

Flippy robot at white castle
Flippy cooking behind a safety shield to protect kitchen staff from hot fryers. | Photo courtesy of White Castle
Flippy cooking behind a safety shield to protect kitchen staff from hot fryers. | Photo courtesy of White Castle

Last month, White Castle #42 in Chicago invited a rather strange burger whiz to cook in its kitchen. It goes by the name of Flippy, and it's already fried up nearly 15,000 pounds of food for the store.

Flippy is a robot. And not just any robot. Flippy is a fully autonomous kitchen assistant, invented by artificial intelligence experts at Miso Robotics to help commercial kitchens boost productivity, better ensure quality, and allow human employees to focus on front-of-house service.

White Castle installed Flippy in Chicago to test the impact it would have in a large market, and after seeing early results, the chain just requested 10 more robots that it plans to deploy in 2021 after the initial pilot period ends. It's yet to be determined which locations get their own Flippys, but White Castle will likely select stores based on which have the highest frying volume and longest night shifts.

Flippy dispensing fries for frying
The machine dispenses the exact quantities that Flippy needs to complete orders. | Photo courtesy of White Castle

“Artificial intelligence and automation have been an area White Castle has wanted to experiment with to optimize our operations and provide a better work environment for our team members,” said Lisa Ingram, CEO of White Castle, in a statement. “This pilot is putting us on that path—and we couldn’t be more pleased to continue our work with Miso Robotics and pave the way for greater adoption of cutting-edge technology in the fast-food industry.”

Following new restraints on restaurants due to the spread of COVID-19, technology like Flippy has taken on a new importance. It promotes social distancing by requiring fewer staff members in the kitchen, it reduces health risks with contactless food preparation, and it can be put to work during late-night shifts, which are historically hard to fill.

Flippy also boasts other high-tech features: The robot integrates with third-party food delivery apps to guarantee freshness, timing the completion of an order with the customer's arrival, and it helps chain operators manage inventory by providing detailed insights.

“Our platform has become increasingly powerful and intelligent—allowing us to quickly scale, integrate into operations and show our ability to help keep customer service standards on par with White Castle’s industry reputation of excellence," Buck Jordan, president and chairman of Miso Robotics, said in the statement. "As we move into the next phase of our partnership, we look forward to accelerating our results and delivering even greater value across White Castle locations.”

White Castle's Flippy robot makes lots of food
A few of the things Flippy can cook up in White Castle's kitchen | Photo courtesy of White Castle

Though White Castle has partnered with Miso Robotics to test Flippy out, the robot is commercially available and could one day become an industry norm.

Customers may not immediately notice a difference when ordering from a robot-enhanced restaurant—Flippy works behind the scenes and won't replace employee-customer interaction—but it's the small changes in operations that some restaurateurs seem hopeful will carry them through this difficult time.

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Kyler Alvord is a news writer at Thrillist. Find him on Twitter and Instagram. Or don't. It's really up to you.
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