This robot named Flippy makes fries for Jack in the Box.
There’s only one catch: it’s a robot.
A Jack in the Box in Chula Vista, Calif. launched the fry-making robot in late July, the Washington Post reports. Flippy is trained to dip baskets of food into hot oil and remove them when perfectly browned. It uses artificial intelligence to detect food and transfer it when ready to cook or serve.
The robot cost $50 million to develop, $5,000 to deploy in the kitchen, and $3,500 a month to rent. Flippy is a major investment from its maker, Miso Robotics. The company has also developed Sippy, a robot that can pour and seal drink orders before serving them to customers. And don’t forget Chippy, who you may see at a number of Chipotles, frying tortilla chips, the Job reported.
Jack in the Box did not return immediately The wealth request for comment.
Some restaurants have already used robots in their kitchens. A restaurant in Florida has started using Servi, a robot that transports food from the kitchen to customer tables, during the pandemic. And restaurant chain Chili’s started using “Rita the Robot” in 2020 to serve customers, and expanded its use to 51 locations.
The difference now is that fast food restaurants across the country face an ongoing labor shortage as they struggle to recruit and retain workers. About 2.8 million restaurant workers were laid off or furloughed in the aftermath of the pandemic. When business started to get busier, companies found it harder to attract employees with the same salary. The industry still had 750,000 fewer jobs than pre-pandemic levels in May, according to the National Restaurant Association.
The United States has nearly 200,000 fast food outlets across the country. Serving customer flows is increasingly looking like an uphill battle for restaurants. The US Customer Satisfaction Index noted a decline in customer experience from 2021 to 2022 which it attributed to food/beverage quality and speed of service, among others. If service is poor, this in turn can lead to lower tips for servers, affecting their overall income.
Although robots do not have the needs of regular employees, they are not free from problems and can break down without warning. And it’s unclear whether fast-food chains like Jack in the Box will invest heavily in converting their workforce from humans to robots. The Post reports that Jack in the Box plans to install a Flippy in five to 10 more locations by the end of next year.
A 2021 report from Lightspeed, a commerce platform, found that half of restaurant owners plan to use automated technology in the next few years. But about a third of restaurateurs don’t want to see a machine prepare their food, according to an April report from industry news site Restaurant Dive.
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