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Flippy, the robot hamburger chef, goes to work

Brian Heater
Flippy, the robot hamburger chef, goes to work

A year after announcing a partnership with Caliburger, Miso Robotics’ resident chef has finally graduated Hamburger University. The AI-enabled line cook starts today, joining the human crew at the fast casual restaurant’s Pasadena location during the lunch shift.

The deal has been in the works for some time, with plans to bring the robot to 50 of the chain’s international locations. Back in September, around the same time Miso CEO Dave Zito was on-stage at Disrupt SF, Flippy was being demoed at the Pasadena restaurant — the robotics’ company’s home turf. Today, however, the first real world implementation of the technology.

The initial appeal of the system is pretty clear for a restaurant like Caliburger, which will no doubt drum up some publicity for its early adoption of robotic kitchen equipment. But along with the other investors that have helped Miso raise a total of $14 million in disclosed funding, there’s hope for long-term benefits in an industry where turnover is a big obstacle in keeping a kitchen up and running.

“Flippy is novel, but definitely not a novelty,” Zito told TechCrunch ahead of the announcement. “As it improves its speed and skillset over time such as frying, chopping and grilling menu items and adding seasoning or cheese to patties, CaliBurger will see an increase in productivity. In addition, we’ve modeled our pricing based off expected value each robotic kitchen assistant can provide at scale.”

Flippy’s entry level price tag is $60,000 — considerably higher than your average burger chef makes in a year. There’s also a 20-percent recurring annual fee for the robot’s leaning and maintenance, but Caliburger is confident in its return on investment through decreased wait times, consistency and decreased food waste.

Sports and entertainment venue company Levy also announced plans to deploy the robot following last month’s participation in the startup’s $10 million Series B. The company will bring its own Flippy robot in an unnamed venue before the end of the year.