This is the day Andy Puzder dreamed about. CaliBurger, an In-N-Out rival that’s now up to locations in 13 countries, has “hired” a robot named Flippy to cook the burgers at its Pasadena store. Flippy would probably lose to a human in a fight — it’s just a wheeled cart with AI, thermal sensors, and a robotic arm — but it can flip patties perfectly every time, never arrives late or hungover, and isn’t programmed to complain when a grease fire breaks out and singes its arm. CaliBurger says it plans to install one in at least 50 of its restaurants over the next two years.
The bot was created by Miso Robotics, a start-up trying to “solve the high pain points in restaurants” by automating them. Flippy’s design is reportedly the result of Miso employees logging many hours as CaliBurger grill cooks, and the robot is a jack-of-all-fast-food-trades — additional “kitchen assistants” could be brought in to operate the deep fryer, chop onions, reload various containers, plate food, or do any of the restaurant’s other “dull, dirty, and dangerous” duties (i.e., what CaliBurger staff were in the habit of calling “our jobs”). Miso is sure the robot takeover is a good thing, though — a belief the young burger cook comes to share by the end of this Miso promo video:
The start-up, which counts CaliBurger as an early investor, argues that its robots improve food quality and safety without necessitating a kitchen redesign, and that Flippy knows its place — it will even “politely move out of the way” when a human needs to be where its arm is. The idea is a utopia where humans and machines feed burgers to excited customers in harmony, but CaliBurger already admits some workers could be reassigned to “engage more with customers,” or just babysit Flippy. Asked about their fate, Miso’s CEO David Zito told TechCrunch that workers shouldn’t worry right now, because human workers “will always play a very critical role in the hospitality side of the business, given the social aspects of food. We just don’t know what the new roles will be yet in the industry.”