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Tech Tracker: Flippy the burger robot moonlights as fry cook

Tech Tracker: Flippy the burger robot moonlights as fry cook

Miso Robotics lands gig at Dodger Stadium; delivery giant heads to college

Editor’s note: This month, we track the whereabouts of Flippy the robot and new deal making in the delivery and online ordering space.

Flippy, the robotic burger flipper at CaliBurger, has been moonlighting this summer at Dodger Stadium.

At the new gig, Flippy has been learning a new set of skills as a frying assistant at a food stand that sells tater tots and chicken tenders. Flippy made his debut earlier this year cooking burgers at Pasadena, Calif.-based CaliBurger. At Dodger Stadium, Flippy stands over a bank of four sizzling hot fryers.

Developed and owned by Miso Robotics, Flippy is agitating fries and tenders, and skimming oil off random food pieces.

Miso Robotics CEO Dave Zito said this iteration of the company’s autonomous robotic kitchen assistant has been a great “stress test” for Flippy. Since taking the ballpark job July 30, Flippy has worked every home game, including the playoffs.

He’s managing about eight frying baskets at a time, which has allowed stadium workers to be reallocated to other tasks that don’t involve the risk of getting hot oil spattered on them.

“It’s not about labor replacement. It’s about productivity enhancement,” Zito said.

Chicago-based Levy runs the concession operations at Dodger Stadium.  To date, Flippy has helped crank out more than 10,000 pounds of fried foods at the stand.

So far, Levy has been happy with the results, said Robin Rosenberg chef de cuisine for the company.

“The robotic kitchen assistant helps us more quickly and safely cook perfectly crispy chicken tenders and tater tots,” Rosenberg said in a statement. “It’s amazing to see the kitchen assistant and team members working together, and the consistency of product is incredible.”

Flippy will be working throughout the playoffs, where the Dodgers trail the Milwaukee Brewers 1-2 in the National League Championship Series. Games 4 and 5 are being played Oct. 16 and Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.

Flippy, who uses a different arm attachment for frying, is still employed full time at CaliBurger. The fast-casual chain, which has nearly a dozen U.S. locations, is owned by Pasadena, Calif.-based Cali Group. The company, an early investor in Miso Robotics, was the first restaurant to employ Flippy earlier this year.

Zito said the CaliBurger and Dodger Stadium experiments are paving the way for Flippy to be deployed in other venues.

He did not reveal any of Flippy’s next employers but said the goal is to have Flippy work with any operation involved in the “ecosystem of prepared foods,” Zito said.

And now that Flippy has mastered burger flipping and frying, what’s next?

“Chopping,” Zito said.

Grubhub angling for hungry college students

The digital ordering wars have reached U.S. universities.

Grubhub, one of the leaders in the digital ordering space, recently announced plans to buy campus food ordering platform Tapingo for $150 million. The San Francisco-based company works with more than 150 college campuses including USC, Ohio State, Virginia Tech and NYU for order-ahead transactions made for pickup or dorm delivery.  

Grubhub is leveraging Tapingo’s platform, which is directly integrated into college meal plans and POS systems. The company also works with national brands located on campuses such as Taco Bell, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Chick-fil-A, Panda Express and Jamba Juice.

Matt Maloney, Grubhub's founder and chief executive officer, said the strategy is to tap the next generation of diners through Tapingo.

"We value the college student population, many of whom we hope become life-long Grubhub diners with their first order,” he said in a statement.

The acquisition is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Postmates reacts to DoorDash’s DashPass

Postmates has reduced the price of its minimum order requirement for subscriber deliveries from $20 to $15. The move comes on the heels of DoorDash’s new subscriber program, DashPass.

For $9.99, DashPass subscribers are not charged a delivery fee on orders of $15 or more. Postmates’ Unlimted program is $7.99 per month when paid annually. Postmates claims that Unlimited members save about, on average, about $200 in delivery fees per year.

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal said Postmates is interviewing banks as it researches a possible IPO. Postmates declined to comment on the report.

Stay tuned. 

Juice at Your doorstep

It’s not unheard of for juice bars and beverage-focused retailers to offer delivery. But the delivery game can be a tricky business for non-bottled beverage brands.

The latest chain to give it a shot is Santa Ana, Calif.-based Nékter Juice Bar. The chain, which servers cold-pressed juices, smoothies and açai bowls, is now delivering its menu through Grubhub, DoorDash and Postmates.

The chain is using its existing to-go containers and packaging for the deliveries. However, Nékter said it will continue to research packaging to ensure guest convenience and product quality. Nékter has 121 restaurants in 13 states. Delivery is now available at about 85 percent of those restaurants, the company said.

Contact Nancy Luna at [email protected] 

Follow her on Twitter: @FastFoodMaven

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