Pasadena’s quiet beef and bun restaurant Caliburger is hiding one giant secret: It’s got a robot in the back flipping patties. That’s right, the primarily-international In-N-Out knockoff restaurant is now pouring money into the future of automated fast food, teaming up with a local startup to devise devious ways to flip America’s hamburgers, no human required.
The machine in question is lovingly known as Flippy, and according to Techcrunch it officially debuted at this year’s Disrupt conference in San Francisco. They’ve revealed earlier versions of Flippy, but this is startup Miso Robotics first foray into a fully-working prototype. It comes at the end of an apparently exhaustive design process that, among other things, saw engineers scrap the idea of a claw-like burger hand in favor of, well, a spatula. There’s even a video of Flippy in action below, aided by a human worker who finishes the hamburger assembly.
Caliburger has reportedly been hard at work with Miso Robotics, tweaking design elements and aiding in the “computer learning” that helps the machine understand techniques and recipes and make subtle changes over time. Not only is the restaurant company an early investor, they’ve also taken possession of a real Flippy and are using it at the Pasadena location already — although it’s hidden away in the back, out of sight from customers currently.
Caliburger has good reason for going all-in on automation, of course. The company maintains a domestic headquarters but mostly outsources its restaurants to other countries like Saudi Arabia, meaning quality and consistency are absolutely key. In-N-Out also sued Caliburger a while back, alleging lots of copyright infringement, which means Caliburger will need new ways to stand out in a crowded burger field (especially in America). Having a burger-flipping robot, and the savings that comes with, is a start.
Per Techcrunch, Caliburger has already put in a request for Flippy models to fill up a run of 50 individual stores, though Miso Robotics will need to time to build them all. Right now the restaurant chain has the exclusive rights to Flippy, but soon anyone with $60,000 or so will be able to purchase a burger-tossing robot for themselves, and the true restaurant automation wars will be on.