Chipotle’s Chippy robot is starting to make tortilla chips at a California location —here are all the other robots taking over fast food
- More fast food chains than ever are testing robots and AI to cut costs.
- Advanced technology can decrease the number of workers needed for food preparation and service.
- Robots are being used to take orders, prepare food, and even deliver it to customers.
Some fast food and fast casual chains are integrating robots into their prep lines.
Rising labor costs and inflation are making hiring and retaining workers more expensive, so robots are a way to cut costs. Some are still in the works, while others are already serving food.
Chipotle just announced that Chippy, an AI kitchen assistant that will help make its tortilla chips, will move to a restaurant kitchen in California in October.
Chipotle specifically programmed Chippy to have some inconsistency in results on purpose to mimic the technique of the humans who currently produce the chain’s chips.
White Castle has a robot cook, Flippy, from Miso Robotics.
The original model could place baskets in the fryer, shake baskets in oil, and monitor for appropriate cooking time to make chicken tenders and tater tots.
Flippy works by moving back and forth in the kitchen while attached to an overhead rail.
Flippy can take over some of the more dangerous kitchen tasks, like deep frying, behind a safety shield to protect staff from hot oil.
Flippy manages the fryer station, allowing back-of-house fast-food workers to focus on other tasks.
Flippy uses AI to identify the food in the bin, pick it up, distribute it in the fryer, and move into the holding area after cooking.
Miso also released Flippy Wings, which makes chicken wings using the same process.
Buffalo Wild Wings has also tested Flippy Wings.
Miso’s most recent robot is CookRight Coffee, being tested at Panera right now.
The system uses artificial intelligence to monitor coffee volume and temperature, so workers don’t manually have to check those levels.
The AI technology allows Panera employees to brew a new pot of coffee at precisely the right time.
Robots are coming to the pizza side of the industry, too. Food tech company Picnic is selling a robot that can make up to 100 pizzas per hour.
So far, Picnic has been deployed at T-Mobile Park in Seattle and Texas A&M University, and businesses can subscribe to the technology for around $2500 per month as of 2022.
Jamba worked with smoothie-making robot Blendid to create a robotic smoothie kiosk.
Blendid makes smoothies using a robotic arm, blenders, and ingredient dispensers.
The system does all the tasks a human worker would typically do, from measuring out the correct ingredients to processing payments.
When they’re not in the kitchen, robots are also giving fast-food chains another way to reach customers through delivery.
Last year, Domino’s announced a test with Nuro’s autonomous, self-driving robots to deliver pizzas in Houston.
Chipotle also invested in Nuro in 2021, though it did not disclose the exact amount.
Around the same time, Chick-fil-A began testing robot deliveries in California via Kiwibot.
Customers at three California locations had the option to select Kiwibot at checkout for short deliveries.
Restaurants are an $800 billion industry with high turnover compared to other areas of the workforce, so there’s potential for continued growth in automation, from delivery to frying foods and taking orders.
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