Self-service ordering kiosks are being rolled out at Wendy's, McDonalds and other restaurants and fast food chains over the next few years. So I guess it's just a matter of time until automation takes over the kitchen.
Actually . . . that time has come.
According to a report this week in TechCrunch, a fast-casual restaurant chain headquartered in Southern California, US, called Caliburger is installing robotic hamburger-flipping chefs in its Pasadena location and then plans to roll them out to its other 49 outlets around the world over the next few years.
Caliburger's Pasadena location is conveniently located in the same town as Miso Robotics, a start-up that's developed its hamburger flipping, "robotic kitchen assistant" called - not unsurprisingly -Flippy.
Flippy is a robot, or more specifically a very specialized industrial 6-axis robotic arm that is bolted to the kitchen floor in front of a grill or fryer and has a "spinning spatula" that cooks the food. The unit receives data from thermal and 3D sensors as well as cameras and takes its orders through a digital ticketing system.
It is capable of grabbing and unwrapping food, keeping track of cooking time and temperature and then plating the food so that a human chef can add garnishes.
Caliburger is one of the initial investors in the technology. As such, the robot - sorry, "robotic kitchen assistant" - has been customised specifically for the restaurant's kitchen and is exclusive to the company for the next six months.
Once that period is over, Flippy will sell for US$60,000 (NZ$81,000) with price increases likely as more features - like advanced computer imaging and artificial intelligence capabilities to help it adapt to new menus - are added.
"We focus on using AI and automation to solve the high pain points in restaurants and food prep," Miso Robotics CEO and co-founder David Zito said in another TechCrunch report from earlier this year.
"That's the dull, dirty and dangerous work around the grill, the fryer, and other prep work like chopping onions. The idea is to help restaurants improve food quality and safety without requiring a major kitchen redesign."
A Gordon Ramsay version of the product that cooks and curses at others in the kitchen is also planned. Just kidding. Couldn't resist.