A new robot is turning heads in California. Flippy from Miso Robotics is the latest advancement on the front lines of the fast food industry. Flippy runs on next-gen chips, motors, sensors, and processing power that has only recently become cost-effective enough to give human laborers a run for their money.
Prices for off-the-shelf food assembly robots have plunged over the last few years. When Miso first came to market in 2016, the underlying tech cost over $100,000 per unit. Today, robot arms have a price tag under $10,000, and cheaper models are on the way.
Consequently, Miso can lease Flippys to fast food chains for $2,000 per month, or $3 per hour, if used nearly all day, every day. For comparison, humans would cost between $4,000 and $10,000 per month, depending on local market conditions. Given the high turnover of fast food jobs and price drop for robotic parts, Miso’s value proposition is only going to get stronger.
Miso Changing the Fast Food Game
Currently, a few Flippy robots flip burgers and dump chicken fingers in the back of a Pasadena establishment. Other models have spent time preparing food in Dodger Stadium and various CaliBurger locations. Soon, Miso plans to release a version of Flippy that will hang from the ceiling, thus creating additional floor space for kitchens with limited real estate.
Miso CEO Buck Jordan believes his startup is poised to lead a fast food revolution. As chains struggle to keep employees and maintain profitability, Flippy robots are a viable alternative to drive costs down. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than 820,000 open jobs across the fast food sector at the end of last year.
To date, Miso has raised over $13 million. The company is trying to bring in an additional $30 million through SeedInvest to fund its expansion efforts. However, businesses like Miso have struggled with profitability in the past.
The Great Fast Food Robot Debate
Miso’s innovation is reviving the debate around how to best use robots in fast food restaurants. Some believe the most effective strategy is to replace humans and their responsibilities directly. Others think robots create opportunities to reimagine how food is assembled completely. The correct approach depends on who you ask.
The Mountain View-based startup, Zume, tried to commercialize a fleet of delivery trucks that made pizzas with robot arms while in transit. Zume failed to bring its original vision to life after receiving $375 million from the Japanese conglomerate, Softbank, which has its own issues. With the pizza-making and delivery business now done, Zume is refocusing efforts around food packaging.
The food joint, Creator, has removed humans entirely from the assembly process and uses a robot the size of a small car to build burgers from scratch. The machine grinds beef, slices tomatoes, and brings it all together in beautiful fashion. Despite having built a loyal following, the business has yet to expand beyond its flagship location.
Miso’s leadership team is focusing on quick wins. The company is helping franchise owners recognize the immediate value of swapping humans for robots on a near one-for-one basis. By building plug-and-play robots that can operate in human environments, Miso has a much faster path to scale. As AI technology improves, so too will Flippy’s ability to replace more complex human tasks. Now, the question is how many human jobs are at risk due to this automation.