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Restaurants cope with the lack of workers with robots that fry chicken wings and hamburgers and bring them to the table


The robots, which cost between $ 3,000 and $ 20,000 a month, are already piloting at various restaurant chains, but two challenges remain.

By Kate Rogers -

NBC News

At the Inspire Brands Innovation Center in Atlanta, the Flippy robot faces a new challenge.

This automated worker, manufactured by Miso Robotics, appeared as a solution for cooking hamburgers.

Now, for the first time, fry chicken wings.

The robots, known as Flippy 1 and 2,

have been in development for nearly five years running pilot tests at brands such as CaliBurger and White Castle


The wing prep version is being tested on Inspire's Buffalo Wild Wings chain to increase production and speed.

The hope is to expand its use in 2022 and in the long term.

"Our strategy and vision for automation at Inspire is


about labor shortages

, but about the need to increase our capacity,

" said Stephanie Sentell, vice president of operations and innovation at Inspire. 

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"The automation we are studying will allow us to unlock that and offer food to our guests faster," he said.

But staff shortages are inevitable.

The National Restaurant Association recently reported that

four out of five businesses are understaffed


This includes 81% full service and 75% limited service operators.

Robotics can help alleviate labor problems and streamline operations.

A solution for the frying station

Miso claims her Flippy 2 can help solve a difficult function in kitchens: operating the deep fryer.

"It's one of those tough jobs to do," explained Mike Bell, CEO of Miso Robotics.

“It is monotonous, it is sometimes dangerous and quite repetitive.

So it was a perfect opportunity for automation robotics to step in and help brands like Buffalo Wild Wings, ”he added.

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The robot can cost up to $ 3,000 a month.

Miso expects to participate in a dozen pilot projects with major restaurant chains in the coming months.

And while Flippy gets to work in the back, Richtech's maitre d 'can wait and wait.

The robot, which sells for $ 20,000, has been tested at restaurants like California Pizza Kitchen


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Richtech's chief operating officer Phil Zheng told NBC that the company has signed with major networks to conduct weekly rehearsals in this difficult environment.

"Our robot allows waiters to serve many more tables and customers to receive their food faster,"

said Zheng.

"Restaurants can increase their income, because waiters will have more time to communicate with the customer ... They can sell more drinks, special offers and the like, as well as increase business income," he added.

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The company

also has a hospitality cleaning robot and sees opportunities at airports and even nursing homes

, as the labor shortage is expected to continue in the coming years.

The use of robotics also extends beyond the internal operations of food companies.

Ghost and virtual kitchen companies are

also leaning towards using robots to deliver food to customers.

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Kitchen United this week launched a five-day pilot program using Kiwibot to move restaurant orders from its headquarters in the Westfield Valley Fair shopping center in the Bay Area to homes within a half-mile radius.

Reef Virtual Kitchens has a similar program with Cartken in Miami.

Fast food chains Domino's and Chipotle collaborate with Nuro, backed by Softbank.

Domino's launched a pilot project in Houston with Nuro's autonomous car

last spring.

And Chipotle revealed in March that in late 2020 it made an investment in Nuro as part of its funding round.

Robotics challenges

A recent EMSI report titled

The Demographic Drought

noted that while automation can help alleviate workplace problems, it faces two challenges.

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The first is that

robots cannot totally replace people.

And second, that the current labor shortage is not going away and

workers will be needed to build robots and other automated technological solutions.

“Companies trying to invest in the development of AI (artificial intelligence) already face a significant shortage of staff and skills.

When it comes to robotic automation, market share analysis has shown that industries that have already invested the most in robotic automation (automotive, electronics and metal) continue to drive the market, while collaborative robots do not meet the standards necessary for the insertion in the market ”, indicated the report.

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Ron Hetrick, labor economist at EMSI and one of the authors of the paper, said that as a whole,

the sector is not yet capable of incorporating robotics to a significant level

, but future restaurant business models will continue to evolve as long as they exist. job challenges. 

He hopes these will change so that the amount of service that customers need will decrease.

A member of the White Castle team alongside the Flippy robot Courtesy: Miso Robotics / Courtesy: Miso Robotics

"The number of restaurants that you can sit in will probably be reduced," Hetrick said.

Miso's Bell said that software engineers are always in high demand, but the company faces "normal challenges" in terms of availability of workers.

The current supply chain crisis is a more immediate concern.

“We have no shortage of supplies right now and we don't really anticipate it in the next six months.

But in the long run, there are many things we have to fix.

Hopefully this global supply chain straightens in the coming months, "he said.

Whitney Ksiazek contributed to this report.

Source: telemundo

All news articles on 2021-10-23

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