How to & Guides

Flippy: Revolutionizing Fast Food with Robotics

The Birth of Flippy: A Silicon Valley Tale

In a small converted garage office in Pasadena back in November 2016, Miso Robotics, a startup founded by four Caltech engineers, embarked on a revolutionary journey that would change the face of fast food. With only a couple thousand dollars in the bank, their hopes were pinned on a robotic arm they affectionately called Flippy. This momentous day, aptly named the “first flip,” marked the beginning of a remarkable story.

Owner of CaliBurger chain, John Miller, placed the first burger on the grill, and Miso’s UR-5 robotic arm swung into action. With precision and agility, it identified the patty and deftly flipped it. Cheers and high-fives filled the room. However, there was a snag. The innovative flipping tool designed by the engineers resembled a clamshell, making it difficult to clean. It was clear that significant modifications were needed.

Blood, Sweat, and Burgers

Miso Robotics CEO, Buck Jordan, looks back on this seemingly embarrassing failure with pride. He believes it was a valuable lesson that saved them time and effort. The incident forced them to consider the importance of a cleanable spatula, an aspect that had been overlooked in their pursuit of innovation. Jordan emphasizes the significance of understanding the intricacies of the fast-food industry to create a successful product.

Flippy is the culmination of Miso’s robotics expertise and knowledge of the food industry. It’s not just a burger-flipping robot; it’s a versatile robotic arm equipped with thermal and regular vision capabilities. Beyond grilling burgers to order, Flippy can also assist human collaborators in the kitchen by providing guidance on tasks like adding cheese or preparing buns. Its recent redesign allows it to seamlessly move between workstations, flipping burgers and cooking fries.

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The End of Standardization

Some may question the need for such versatility in fast food, where standardization has been the norm for years. However, Jordan argues that fast food’s standardization is a result of fast food’s standardization itself. By breaking free from this mold, Miso offers the potential for complex menu items and customer customization. Flippy’s ability to handle intricate tasks with finesse and customization opens up new possibilities.

Replacing Humans?

The advent of robots like Flippy inevitably raises concerns about job displacement. However, Jordan asserts that their intention is not to replace human workers. Rather, they aim to address the labor shortage prevalent in the fast food industry. Restaurants struggle to fill shifts, leading to staff shortages and even closures. Flippy’s introduction mitigates this problem and allows restaurants to focus on other pressing matters.

While Flippy’s current capabilities include operating the fry station and the grill, tasks like assembly still require human intervention. However, Jordan envisions expanding Flippy’s capabilities in the future. He believes that automation will become increasingly necessary, given the rising demand for commercial chefs and delivery services in the fast food industry.

The Big Differentiator

Miso Robotics differentiates itself from other companies in the food robotics space through its strategic approach. Rather than building their own restaurant brands, they aim to collaborate with established giants like McDonald’s. By providing a product that caters to existing businesses, Miso Robotics ensures a wider reach and faster implementation. Flippy’s integration into Dodger Stadium, Chase Stadium, and Cali Group-backed restaurants exemplifies the success of this approach.

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Miso Robotics continues to innovate, with plans to introduce open software tools that allow users to program Flippy for specific tasks. Whether it’s a Mexican joint looking to roll taquitos or a fast food chain seeking customized cooking procedures, Flippy’s versatility ensures broad applicability.

The Future of Food Robotics

The decreasing cost of robot arm hardware, once an extravagance, now contributes to the widespread adoption of robotics in the food industry. Miso Robotics charges an up-front cost for Flippy’s installation, combined with a monthly software-as-a-service fee. As the price of robot arms continues to drop, Miso Robotics plans to offer the robot for free while slightly increasing the subscription fee in the near future. This strategy aims to make Flippy an irresistible proposition for quick-serve restaurants.

Jordan believes that the future holds exciting possibilities for Miso Robotics. As the demand for their product grows, more industry giants are seeking their services. With their innovative approach and commitment to addressing industry pain points, Miso Robotics is poised to revolutionize the fast food landscape.


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