Flippy the robot is slowly making its way into more restaurants

It has been more than four years since I wrote about an LA burger joint called CaliBurger which had a unique gimmick. Instead of the usual cook, CaliBurger had installed Flippy, a burger making robot in the kitchen. Flippy couldn’t do everything but he could cook the burgers using separate spatulas for raw and cooked meat. At the time I wrote, “once you see it in action, it seems inevitable.”


Four years later, Flippy hasn’t taken over the industry but after the pandemic the robot’s reach in the fast food industry is expanding. The robot went on sale for $30,000 each in 2020 and Business Insider reported there was strong demand.

One of the first chains to try out Flippy was White Castle, also in 2020, but they only experimented with the original version of the robot in one location. This year, White Castle decided to expand the new version, Flippy 2, to 100 restaurants which is about 1/3 of the chain’s stores.

The Ohio-based chain has been experimenting with the robotic fry cook since September 2020, when the original “Flippy” was installed in a Chicago area restaurant. After upgrading to “Flippy 2” at the original test location in November 2021, White Castle decided to roll out a larger version of the program.

“By taking over the work of an entire fry station, Flippy 2 alleviates the pain points that come with back-of-house roles at quick-service restaurants to create a working environment for its human coworkers that maximizes the efficiency of the kitchen,” Miso Robotics said in a statement.

That’s a big step but an even bigger one might be on the horizon. Jack in the Box, which has about 2,200 locations along the west coast is now testing out Flippy 2 and a drink robot called Sippy at one of its restaurants in San Diego.


Flippy 2, which takes over the work for an entire fry station, increases kitchen throughput by 30%, or around 60 baskets per hour, and can perform more than twice as many food preparation tasks as its previous iteration, including basket filling, emptying and returning…

Meanwhile, Sippy will help the company fulfill drink orders while reducing spills and waste from overfilling. A fully automatic conveyor efficiently moves cups along the Sippy unit, which accommodates a range of cup sizes and groups cups by order for easy delivery to customers.

Obviously if Flippy 2 and Sippy are a hit, that could result in a lot of orders for new robots.

Having a robot take over deep frying makes a lot of sense. For one thing, we all know that it’s usually the fries that slow up the line. And if you’ve ever worked in a fast food restaurant (I worked at McDonalds one summer in college) then you probably know that working with boiling grease is by far the most dangerous job in the restaurant. Having this handled by a robot that can’t be harmed and can’t sue the company for damages makes a lot of sense. Financially it probably also makes a lot of sense if the price of a Flippy 2 is roughly the cost of employing one fry cook full time for one year. Flippy can work 24 hours a day, doesn’t take breaks and doesn’t miss shifts. (And for the record I never missed shifts but getting up at 4 am to open the drive though at 5 am was not my idea of fun.)


Flippy isn’t the only game in town of course. Panda Express is rolling out its own robotic wok which can speed up cooking of frequent items like fried rice.

The Asian fast casual on Wednesday unveiled a proprietary robotic wok, dubbed the Panda Auto Wok (PAW), that is designed to cook food faster and ease the burden on cooks. The chain has been developing PAW since 2015 and began installing it in restaurants last year, the company said in a press release.

The bot is now in use at 120 of the chain’s 2,316 restaurants and will be in another 240 by the end of this year.

So the robot takeover of fast food chains is not going quite as quickly as I thought it might (the pandemic may have been part of that) but it is still happening. And especially now that inflation is driving wages higher for these jobs, it would not surprise me if this were the norm at all the big chains another 4 years from now.

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