Coronavirus concerns could mean a robot will be cooking your White Castle fries or perhaps assembling your salad.
Cooking robots are in growing demand as virus-wary kitchens try to put some distance between workers and customers. This fall, the White Castle burger chain will test a robot arm that can cook french fries and other foods. The robot, dubbed Flippy, is made by Miso Robotics.
White Castle had been discussing a Miso partnership for about a year, but talks accelerated after COVID-19 struck, White Castle Vice President Jamie Richardson told the Associated Press. Richardson said the robot can free up employees for other tasks like disinfecting tables or deliveringy orders. “The world’s just reshaped in terms of thoughts around food safety,” he said.
Robotic food service was a trend even before the pandemic, as hospitals, campus cafeterias and others tried to meet demand for fresh, customized options 24 hours a day while keeping labor costs in check. Now, some say, robots may shift from a novelty to a necessity.
As salad bars shut down, Chowbotics started getting more inquiries about Sally, a refrigerator-sized robot that can whip up a variety of salads and bowls from 22 prepared ingredients stored inside it. Sally can make around 65 bowls before kitchen workers need to refill the ingredients.
Prior to this year, Chowbotics had sold around 125 of its $35,000 robots, primarily to hospitals and colleges. But sales have jumped more than 60% this year, CEO Rick Wilmer said.
Miso Robotics CEO Buck Jordan said fast-food restaurants are already having trouble finding workers, due in part to a shrinking population of young workers.
“It’s our contention that automation is not a choice,” Jordan said. “You must automate in order to survive the future.”