Robots are storming White Castle! The pop culturally iconic restaurant chain just announced a partnership with Miso Robotics today to bring Flippy the robot on board as a fry cook as part of a limited pilot program.
White Castle will be using the new Flippy ROAR, which debuted earlier this year. Unlike previous versions of the robot, the ROAR is suspended overhead on a rail, sliding back and forth. Flippy will be manning several frying stations at White Castle, cooking up a variety of foods including fries, chicken rings, onion rings and mozzarella sticks.
Jamie Richardson, Vice President, Government and Shareholder Relations at White Castle, told me by phone last week that Flippy will be “coming soon” to an undisclosed location in Chicago.
The partnership comes amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has restaurants of all sizes reconfiguring to accommodate less human-to-human interaction. Robots are one way to reduce human contact with food, but Richardson said that White Castle started talking with Miso 15 months ago, long before the pandemic hit in full. “The unexpected events of COVID made us want to accelerate,” Richardson said, “We do think it’s important to keep marching forward with innovation.”
Robots can also be used to take over more dangerous and repetitive tasks in the kitchen, like operating the fryer. A robot won’t get bored, tired or burned making tater tots for hours on end. “A new hire like Flippy frees us up to have team members do other things like delivery,” said Richardson. Delivery and other forms of off-premises eating, of course, have become more important than ever during this pandemic as dine-in experiences have been forced to close.
For Miso, the White Castle deal comes at a time when the company is trying to raise $30 million through equity crowdfunding. As of now, Miso only has two customers using Flippy, CaliBurger and Compass Group/Levy, both of which are investors in Miso. As well, two current Flippy installation sites are stadiums, which have been shut down because of the pandemic.
With 365 owned and operated restaurants, White Castle represents a big growth opportunity for Miso. Financial terms of this deal weren’t disclosed, but the sticker price on a new Flippy ROAR costs $30,000 upfront with a $1,500 monthly subscription.
Despite having been around for nearly 100 years, White Castle remains remarkably spry. It was among the first restaurant chains to add the plant-based Impossible burger to its menu back in 2018. And as noted previously, it has been active with its third-party delivery program.
With this one installation set to start, we’ll have to see if Flippy becomes king of this particular castle.