White Castle is testing a new kind of kitchen worker – a robotic fry cook.
The fast-food chain plans to expand its partnership with Miso Robotics, creators of what is billed as the “first autonomous grilling and frying kitchen assistant,” deploying the unit in 10 locations in 2021. The robot will be moving into 10 White Castle locations in 2021, following a successful pilot at one location that was announced in July.
White Castle said it plans to use the robot (“Flippy Roar”) in its kitchens to enhance production speeds, empower teams behind the counter and maintain consistent quality and taste. The chain said its initial decision to test Flippy came amid constraints due to COVID-19.
“The need to limit staff while maintaining cooking speeds and freshness – as order volume shifted to delivery and take out – created a new set of challenges operators needed to address to keep customer satisfaction high and remain competitive in a radically transformed industry ecosystem where concerns of food contamination had elevated,” the company stated.
The robot is able to optimize staffing during late-night shifts for the 24-hour White Castle chain, traditionally difficult slots to fill, now further challenged by social distancing. With labor able to focus on front-of-the-house needs, employees are increasing their attention to order fulfillment for delivery and takeout, the chain said.
Production speeds are being tracked to increase and meet demand needs, with the robots able to prepare an average of 360 baskets of fried foods a day. All meals are equipped with an added layer of health and safety – with Flippy serving as a contactless, automated solution.
"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, which operates 365 restaurants. "We believe technology like Flippy Roar can improve customer service and kitchen operation. 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."