We tried a restaurant where robots cook the food

CaliExpress by Flippy is both a functioning restaurant and a test kitchen for kitchen robots.

CaliExpress by Flippy’s menu is simple — burgers and fries — but it’s a little different from your standard fast-casual affair in that its staff includes two robots.

A robot arm serves a paper to-go bag with a picture of a burger on it.

CaliExpress by Flippy serves as a test kitchen for Miso Robotics, which builds robots for use in restaurants, currently including White Castle and Jack in the Box.

How it works

Customers order at a kiosk powered by PopID — a biometric payment startup that lets users upload a selfie, then pay, access loyalty rewards, and more using their face.

Those orders are received by the kitchen, where two robots get to work:

  • Miso Robotics’ Flippy is essentially a fry cook. At CaliExpress, it makes up to 150 pounds of fries per hour, but it’s capable of other recipes — chicken tenders, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, etc.
  • Another robot, made by Cucina, grinds wagyu beef, then grills up to six patties at a time.

A human employee salts the fries, grills onions, assembles the burger, and serves the orders. They’re also responsible for “managing” the robots.

Elsewhere in the restaurant, other Miso Robotics bots are on display, including a pair of earlier Flippy bots and Chippy, a robot created to fry and season Chipotle’s tortilla chips.

It’s a fun novelty to watch the bots at work, and the food comes out just like you’d expect — a standard burger and fries, on par with similar fast-casual restaurants.

Where else are robots in use?

You’ll find them at various fast-food and fast-casual chains, including:

  • Chipotle, where a bot from robotics startup Hyphen makes up to 180 bowls an hour, ~6x faster than human employees.
  • Sweetgreen’s Infinite Kitchen restaurants, where bots make 400-500 dishes per hour, 50% more compared to staff.
  • Some restaurants employ robot servers that run food to tables.

What about humans?

Humans are still needed, but robots can:

  • Decrease restaurants’ overhead costs and alleviate labor shortages.
  • Streamline food prep and service.
  • Replace humans at more dangerous stations, such as fryers or grills.

Meanwhile, workers can learn new skills related to managing and troubleshooting robots, and focus more on customer-facing tasks.

While the full impact of automation in the restaurant industry remains to be seen, please enjoy Michael Sheen as Arthur, a robot bartender.

BTW: If you really love Flippy, Miso Robotics is currently open to investors.

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