Robotics Revolutionizing Fast-food Kitchens

by Ella

The landscape of fast-food kitchens is undergoing a transformative shift as automation increasingly becomes the backbone of back-of-house operations. Major chains like Chipotle, Sweetgreen, and White Castle are leading the charge, deploying robots to handle tasks ranging from flipping burgers to assembling salads and fries.

Automating Mundane Tasks: A Response to Rising Labor Costs

The fast-food industry, grappling with escalating labor costs due to inflation and minimum wage mandates, is turning to automation to streamline operations. A survey conducted by Dalhousie University reveals that four out of five Canadians expect food prices to rise in 2024, prompting chains to seek innovative solutions.


Sweetgreen’s Automated Kitchen Sets the Standard

Sweetgreen, a pioneer in this shift, opened its second automated kitchen on December 12 in Huntington Beach, California. Boasting an efficient robot-powered assembly line, this location can produce up to 500 salads per hour, a 50% increase in output compared to traditional methods. The move aligns with Sweetgreen’s plan to deploy seven to nine Infinite Kitchens in 2024.


Chipotle’s Tech-Forward Approach to Efficiency

Chipotle is making substantial strides in automation, partnering with Hyphen, a food tech startup. Hyphen’s robotic bowl line, similar to Sweetgreen’s, aims to produce up to 180 bowls per hour, enhancing accuracy and speed. Chipotle is also testing the Autocado, a robot that streamlines avocado preparation, and Chippy, a robotic fry cook developed by Miso Robotics.


White Castle’s Flippy Revolutionizes Fry Cooking

White Castle is leveraging Flippy, the robotic fry cook developed by Miso Robotics. Flippy handles deep frying tasks, allowing the redeployment of employees to more hospitality-focused roles. While the rollout has been gradual, with Flippy in 15 White Castle locations as of December 2023, the technology is transforming back-of-house operations.


CaliExpress by Flippy: A Glimpse into the Future

Miso Robotics, in collaboration with PopID, is set to open CaliExpress by Flippy, a fully autonomous restaurant in Southern California. This groundbreaking venture utilizes facial and palm biometrics for payment, with Flippy handling both frying and grilling tasks. CaliExpress aims to be the world’s first fully automated restaurant, requiring only one person per shift to operate.

Venture Capitalists Take Notice

The investment landscape reflects the growing importance of kitchen robotics, with venture capitalists injecting $364.5 million into the sector in 2022, according to PitchBook. This underscores the industry’s recognition of the efficiency and cost-saving potential offered by automation.

As fast-food chains continue to embrace automation, the integration of robotics into kitchens is poised to redefine efficiency, consistency, and the overall dining experience for consumers. This shift represents not only a response to economic challenges but also a step toward a tech-forward future in the food service industry.



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