Being able to stand the heat is in the kitchen is a well-known measure of success, and another is being a great team worker. But unfortunately for Flippy, the patty-grilling robot introduced by Cali Burger and Miso Robotics last week, its human coworkers have struggled to keep up with it.
So, after just a week of burger-flipping, the robot has been temporarily retired.
Cali Burger holding company Cali Group has admitted that more time, training, and investment is needed for human staff to keep up with both the customer demand spiked by news of the robot, and the speed at which Flippy works.
According to Anthony Lomelino, CTO for Cali Group, this isn’t a case of Flippy not pulling its weight in the kitchen. Human kitchen staff were simply unable to prepare patties for the grill – and sort out customer extras – at the speed that Flippy was flipping.
But this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Flippy, according to Cali Burger. However, the irony remains that the company’s automation strategy has triggered a human recruitment drive – to staff restaurants to satisfy the demand caused by a robot that no longer works there.
Perhaps we need to coin a new term for this conundrum. A Flip 22 situation?
Plus: Little Caesars demands a pizza the action
In other fast-food robotics news, pizza chain Little Caesars has been awarded a patent for a robotic system that’s designed to help assemble pizzas.
The patent appears to include two robots, one stationary arm and another fully-fledged robot chef to handle the dough and take care of oven duties.
Let’s hope that Little Caesars takes note of Cali Burger’s automated foot-shooting incident, and avoids ending up in its own Flip 22.
Internet of Business says
The lessons here are all good ones. First, the wave of popular interest in robotics is both a marketing department’s dream, and an operational nightmare should the promised experience fail to materialise. Although in this case, the fault doesn’t lie with the technology, but with over-reaching ambition.
Second, it took Cali Burger less than a week to disprove the theory that robots simply replace human jobs and slash costs. As a direct result of Flippy’s speed and efficiency, Cali Burger has been forced to increase its headcount and staffing costs – but also, potentially, its revenues.
Let’s hope the accountants can work out whether the company is ahead in the short term, and can sustain those figures in the future.
And third, the idea of robots as a brand extension works, but perhaps only in isolation and while the novelty lasts. The first robotic sushi bars attracted a wave of public interest, but once that experience becomes normal, it all boils down to whether the food, atmosphere, service, and price represent a good enough mix to retain loyal customers.
Honda’ ASIMO robot has long been the exception that proves the rule. The robot may be an engineering marvel and a benchmark for humanoid systems development, but its main purpose is simple: to be Honda’s ASIMO robot, the company’s brand ambassador.
Behind ASIMO may be a truck load of equipment and staff – in classic Wizard of Oz ‘smoke and mirrors’ style – but perhaps that gives us a fourth lesson of robotic automation. Behind every robot is a (board)room full of technology and business challenges. And some of them may not be immediately obvious.