The quick-service CaliBurger chain on Tuesday unveiled a new burger-flipping robot that it plans to roll out to more than 50 locations worldwide by the end of 2019.
Dubbed “Flippy,” the robotic kitchen assistant is the creation of Miso Robotics, an engineering firm specializing in “adaptable robotics” for commercial kitchens. The goal is to develop technology that can handle hazardous, tedious and time-sensitive aspects of cooking, from flipping burgers to frying chicken, cutting vegetables or final plating, according to press materials.
For CaliBurger, the move is part of a larger emphasis on technology.
Some CaliBurger restaurants, for example, feature video gaming walls, on which diners can play communal games, like Minecraft, and watch gaming tournaments, like League of Legends. And, like many quick-service chains, technology is also being incorporated in operations, from ordering to delivery.
Once seen as an In-N-Out Burger knock off that operated mostly overseas, CaliBurger was reportedly sued by In-N-Out in 2012 for trademark infringement, but the case was later settled. CaliBurger made some changes to be less like In-N-Out, renaming the double-patty burgers it once called the Double Double as the “Cali Double,” for example.
CaliBurger now operates in 12 countries, first coming to the U.S. in 2016. The chain has seven domestic restaurants and is available in Washington D.C. for delivery only.
Flippy works in the kitchen of the Pasadena, Calif., location, near the chain’s headquarters. Miso Robotics is also based in Pasadena.
John Miller, chairman of the Cali Group, parent to the CaliBurger chain, said in a statement that Flippy will not necessarily replace a kitchen worker, but will allow the restaurant to redeploy staff to the dining room to engage more with customers.
“The application of artificial intelligence to robotic systems that work next to our employees in CaliBurger restaurants will allow us to make food faster, safer and with fewer errors,” said Miller. “Our investment in Miso Robotics is part of our broader vision for creating a unified operating system that will control all aspects of a restaurant, from in-store interactive gaming entertainment, to automated ordering and cooking processes, ‘intelligent’ food delivery and real-time detection of operating errors and pathogens.”
The chain declined to reveal the cost of Flippy, saying Miso Robotics is working with customers to determine the best pricing model.
“The price will be in line with the productivity benefits Flippy provides to restaurant owners,” said a spokesperson.
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