The term “burger flipper” is often used as a derogatory way of referring to someone working a low-paying job (sometimes, but not always, literally flipping burgers) that is generally seen as the kind of gig that could be done by anyone. And that’s paraphrasing the politest definition on Urban Dictionary. But if you think burger flipping is more complex than the haters like to let on, science hasn’t done you any favors as of late: CaliBurger, a chain whose last sustained time in the spotlight was occurred because it was too much like In-N-Out Burger is the latest restaurant to announce it’ll be using a burger flipping robot to handle grill duties.
Created by Miso Robotics, “Flippy” is billed as an even better alternative to using a lowly human being to upend burger patties in your commercial kitchen. According to a promotional video, “Flippy cooks burgers perfectly – every time,” implying whoever fast food joints have in their kitchens now are achieving less than perfection.
The burger flipping robot is also equipped with cameras and sensors that allow it “to see,” meaning it “collaborates in real-time” thanks to “intelligent Cooking AI software.” The video even boast that Flippy can “politely move out of the way” – you know, if someone rudely bumps into it screaming something like, “Damn you, Flippy! I need this job to pay my rent!” Oh, and unlike some fancy high school graduate who still requires training no matter how many AP classes he took, Flippy can “be installed in less than five minutes.”
Earlier this week, CaliBurger – an international chain that operates in twelve countries, including the US where it now has seven locations – announced it would roll out Flippy in more than 50 locations by the end of 2019, according to Nation’s Restaurant News. For now, the robot is getting a test run at a location in Pasadena, California, near both the CaliBurger and the Miso Robotics headquarters (which I assume could be very helpful if the robot suddenly becomes sentient and seeks to meet its creator).
The good news for humans is that neither CaliBurger nor Miso seem interested in putting people out of work with Flippy at this point. In a statement to F&W Miso Robotics CEO David Zito said, "Restaurants are the gathering place we go to interact with other humans. This will never go away. Flippy is positioned as a kitchen assistant, supporting humans in the food service industry primarily with dull, dangerous and dirty tasks. This is a technology that is meant to be a needed third hand to improve efficiency, productivity, consistency and value. Taste and flavor are created by chefs and cooks." And John Miller, chairman of the CaliBurger’s parent company, Cali Group echoed that sentiment, saying that Flippy is there to help existing staffers. “The application of artificial intelligence to robotic systems that work next to our employees in CaliBurger restaurants will allow us to make food faster, safer and with fewer errors.”