A chain involved in one of the first major commercial trials of a robot kitchen assistant has said it will extend the concept to a further 10 sites after initial analysis of the results.
White Castle, which operates 365 stores in the US, has now completed a pilot of autonomous grilling and frying kitchen assistant, Flippy, and said the system had “shown promise”.
The outcome of the trial had been eagerly anticipated by fast food market observers given predictions that the use of AI and automation will become a key feature in QSR kitchens in the future.
White Castle said it will implement the new version of Miso Robotics’ Flippy Robot-on-a-Rail (ROAR) into multiple kitchens to enhance production speeds, empower teams behind the counter and maintain consistent quality and taste.
White Castle has been trialling the equipment in a single store since July, just as Covid-19 was presenting new constraints for restaurant success.
The need to limit staff while maintaining cooking speeds and freshness – as order volume shifted to delivery and take out – created a new set of challenges operators that needed to be addressed to keep customer satisfaction high and remain competitive in a radically-transformed industry ecosystem where concerns of food contamination had elevated.
Lisa Ingram, CEO of White Castle, said that the robot was capable of accelerating throughput and integrating with delivery and take-out applications to optimize freshness and contactless food preparation and cooking.
“Artificial intelligence and automation have been an area White Castle has wanted to experiment with to optimise our operations and provide a better work environment for our team members. We believe technology like Flippy ROAR can improve customer service and kitchen operation.
“This pilot is putting us on that path – and we couldn’t be more pleased to continue our work with Miso Robotics and pave the way for greater adoption of cutting-edge technology in the fast-food industry.”
Flippy ROAR is able to optimise staffing during late-night shifts for the 24-hour restaurant -traditionally difficult slots to fill, now further challenged by social distancing – ensuring White Castle customer service standards stay high at all hours.
With labor able to focus on front-of-the-house needs, team members are increasing their attention to order fulfilment for delivery and takeout.
Miso Robotics’ recent advancements to the platform and proprietary software, ChefUI, which powers Flippy ROAR, further assist team members in quality assurance by integrating with delivery applications to sync order completion with driver pick-up time, optimizing food prep production lines and freshness upon customer delivery.
More sensors and camera capabilities also provide chain operators with visibility into real-time inventory needs and intelligent insights – such as projection and recommendations for bulk orders.
Production speeds are being tracked to increase and meet demand needs, reaching an average of 360 baskets of fried foods a day.
In total, approximately 6,600kg of food over 9,720 baskets since the pilot was instituted in late September 2020.