Ahh Flippy. It was the first food robot I ever wrote about, way back in…2018. Back then, it could only grill burgers. Now, a year later, it can fry tater tots and chicken tenders, and will reportedly soon get a job in a deli.

They grow up so fast. Soon Flippy will want the keys to not drive the autonomous car.

We’re going to get a full report on what Flippy is — and will be — up to when Dave Zito, CEO of Miso Robotics, sits down for an on-stage chat at our upcoming ArticulATE conference on April 16 in San Francisco. We were so excited to have him be a part of the show that we couldn’t wait and sent him some questions via email, which he was kind enough to answer.

This is but an autonomous amuse bouche — get your ticket today to see Zito and a host of truly amazing speakers at ArticulATE!

THE SPOON: Flippy started off grilling burgers and then moved on to frying up chicken tenders. What particular jobs in the kitchen are Flippy, and robots in general, really good at?

ZITO: We started Miso Robotics with the idea of giving eyes and a brain to a robotic arm so it could work in commercial kitchens with real-time situational awareness and real-time robotic controls. We designed and starting building the system from Day One as a software platform that could automate the cooking of all manner of foods and recipes, with all equipment and restaurant brands, and all kitchen formats.

Our autonomous robotic Kitchen Assistants are focused on helping with the most repetitive, dangerous, and least desirable tasks in the kitchen. Flippy grilling burgers was our proof of concept. Flippy can now fry many different kinds of foods as well. These tasks can be improved and optimized for consistency, ensuring each meal is cooked to the perfect temperature with minimal food waste. Beyond frying, grilling, and other cooking, expect them over time to help with tasks like chopping onions, cutting other vegetables, and even cleaning.

The Kitchen Assistant improves and learns over time based on the data available. Ultimately, this frees up kitchen staff to spend more time with customers. We believe the future of food is on-demand, accessible, personalized, and scalable. We are building the technology platform leveraging automation, machine learning, and robotics advancements to deliver on this future.

What did you learn from Flippy’s time at Dodger Stadium?

Flippy’s deployment at Dodger Stadium emphasized how much one kitchen assistant can impact productivity and efficiency in a high-volume commercial kitchen. Dodger Stadium was the first time we deployed our frying capabilities, and we matched max productivity while producing consistently fried foods to the chef’s expectations. Cooking for extended periods of peak demand during baseball games was a key proof point for the reliability and sustained high throughput of our Kitchen Assistants.

But don’t just take our word for it; here is what our partner Levy had to say about the experience:

“The robotic kitchen assistant helps us more quickly and safely cook perfectly crispy chicken tenders and tater tots,” said Robin Rosenberg, Vice President and Chef de Cuisine for Levy. “It’s amazing to see the kitchen assistant and team members working together, and the consistency of product is incredible.”

“New technologies at large scale venues and events like this need to add value for both guests and team members,” said Jaime Faulkner, CEO of E15, Levy’s analytics subsidiary. “Working with Miso, we were able to create a process that both delivers high quality food more quickly, and gives kitchen team members a chance to hone sought-after skills working with robotics and automation.”

We are looking forward to resuming frying with Levy this baseball season.

What is the biggest misconception about food robots in the kitchens?

The biggest misconception about the use of technology in the kitchen is that it’s about job replacement. There is a growing labor crisis in the restaurant industry. Local workforces are shrinking, and wages are increasing, making commercial cooking uneconomical. Meanwhile, consumers have an increased desire for meals cooked for them, whether via delivery, take-out, dining out, or grocery deli meals, adding pressure on kitchen workers.

Restaurants already see 150% turnover today from a dissatisfied workforce. Pair this with an aging workforce that can’t handle some of the physical demands that come with the job and commercial kitchens are struggling to recruit and retain talent. Intelligent automation not only creates an avenue for meaningful work for the next generation through the creation of new jobs like a Chef Tech (employees trained to manage the robot), but also takes the physical burden off of more mature employees who want to continue to contribute later in life.

The tasks that Miso’s technology can perform are some of the most dangerous tasks in the kitchen, not to mention messy and menial, ultimately improving the employee experience by freeing up time for them to focus on more meaningful work, like warm customer service that a robot simply can’t match.

What should restaurant owners know about food robots before implementing them?

Expect improvements across several aspects of their business — better food, better customer service, better inventory and cost management. While a signature recipe for a restaurant can make it a success, it can be hard to reliably reproduce at scale to every customer, but robots like Flippy can deliver consistency in flavor to help keep customers loyal. Furthermore, the value proposition of implementing robotics in the kitchen spans productivity and cost-savings to one of the most pressing issues in our world today – sustainability. Food waste is a huge contributor to the climate crisis we are in, wasting $160 billion of food a year. This technology has the potential to significantly reduce that number – restaurants can contribute to a positive step in the right direction of food waste and ensure they are maximizing inventory as they begin to grow.

What is your favorite fictional robot?

As a kid I loved Johnny 5 from the film Short Circuit. I loved the idea that technology built for one purpose, in this case the military, once embedded with artificial intelligence shifted to more compassionate pursuits. In that way we are inspired at Miso to take industrial robotic arms, add our intelligence, and in so doing improve them for a broader and more impactful service — helping liberate commercial kitchens from repetitive tasks and mediocre menus, while empowering chefs to make delicious and nutritious meals accessible for all.

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