California-based Miso Robotics, which focuses on robotic animation for restaurants, is hoping to save the nearly $300 billion US fast-food industry with its robots. With record high job openings and an inadequate number of workers to fill positions, Miso Robotics is counting on its robots to work alongside fast-food employees at a time when the labor pool is stagnant.
So, how does Miso Robotics take on such a daunting task? It starts by creating a line of kitchen robots that automate almost all the components of standard fast-food meals. The company’s leading creation, Flippy, has a compact, modular design, making it adaptable to even the tightest kitchen spaces and is engineered to fry nearly anything.
Despite some pushback, the fast-food industry is generally on board with the notion of an increasingly sophisticated tech stack. A recent TD Bank survey of US franchise owners and operators found that their top priorities for 2022 include investing in mobile ordering (54 percent), delivery services (47 percent), point-of-sale (POS) digital signage and other in-store tech (45 percent) and alternative payment methods (37 percent).
But Miso Robotics wants to take fast-food tech to the next level by implementing robots to work together with existing employees. And, unsurprisingly, the level of speed and efficiency robots can offer is appealing to some of today’s fast-food chains. Miso Robotics is already forming partnerships that aim to revolutionize the fast-food industry.
One such partnership is an $11 million deal to bring Flippys to Caliburger outlets in 50 international locations. Meanwhile, White Castle was so satisfied with Flippy’s work during a pilot program that it’s expanding to implement 100 more Flippys to work at US White Castle locations. Miso Robotics has also secured ties with the owners of Buffalo Wild Wings and Jack in the Box, two titans in the industry with thousands of locations.
Since large numbers of former fast-food workers have no intention of returning to the industry, Miso Robotics is entering the sector at the right time. While many Americans are keen on working in restaurants, operators should look at adopting new technology, not as a means of replacing humans, but to make their jobs more substantial by increasing the restaurant’s operational efficiency in all areas.
For restaurants constrained by profit margins as low as three percent to five percent, the introduction of robots can be a game-changer, accounting for a boost in margins by as much as 300 percent. And with over 200,000 fast food restaurants in the US that could benefit from their own Flippy system, the door is open for Miso to step in and command a significant portion of the burgeoning automated restaurant market.
Figures like those have caught the eyes of investors, which is in part why Miso has accumulated nearly $80 million in funding since it was founded in 2016. But it is currently seeking active new investment to help expand its footprint and form even more partnerships.
Since the technology is evolving and maturing at a steady pace, the possibilities are endless. Robots will never replace the need for human workers — nor would most people want them to — but robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) will take a role, alongside humans, improving the experience of the customer and worker alike.