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White Castle invests in burger-flipping robots to make fast food even faster

Imagine how much trippier Harold and Kumar’s pilgrimage in search of the titular burgers would have been in the 2004 movie Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle if they had found that the kitchen had been taken over by robots whipping up the burger chain’s iconic “sliders.”

What might have sounded like a science fiction stoner comedy pitch a decade-and-a-half ago is very much science fact today. On Tuesday, Miso Robotics, the Silicon Valley robotics company behind the burger-flipping robot chef Flippy announced that White Castle is upping its investment in Flippy robots for its kitchens.

“One thing that most people don’t realize about White Castle is that they’re real innovators,” Buck Jordan, CEO and co-founder of Miso Robotics, told Digital Trends. “You know, their slogan is ‘Be Bold.’ They were the first-ever quick-serve restaurant, starting in 1921. They invented the category. They invented takeout. They were the first quick-serve restaurant with a website, the first to serve the Impossible Burger, which [Flippy] can also flip, the first to do a bunch of things. Now they’re the first ones with a fully autonomous fry chef.”

White Castle robot
Miso Robotics

White Castle has been trialing the Flippy robot at one of its Chicago restaurants since September. (“If you were to go there now, you would see it,” Jordan said.) Now the tech-savvy fast food chain is expanding the robot to 10 new locations, suggesting that Flippy has passed its probationary period and is set to become a longer-term member of the White Castle family. The location of these restaurants has yet to be determined, but it’s a promising sign for the rapidly growing Miso Robotics, which recently started selling its Flippy ROAR robot-on-a-rail more widely. Expect to see them up and running in 2021.

Flippy, for those unfamiliar with it, is a kitchen robot that can flip burgers, serve fries, and help prep a plethora of other foods in the kitchen. According to Jordan, Flippy has so far handled around 14,580 pounds of food, the equivalent of more than White Castle 9,720 baskets, since the pilot was put into place.

“Our system is designed to [fit into any kitchen],” he said. “It’s overhead because we want to get out of the aisleway, which is critical in quick-serve restaurants. It’s also designed to be installed overnight. If we went to a customer and said this would take two or three days to install, they’d never do it. It’s all about being able to [easily fit into existing kitchens] and to not take much in the way of changes.”

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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