Automation For Fast-Food Chains Surge In Response To Recent Labor Supply Trends

A number of high-profile fast-food chains such as Chipotle and White Castle have begun making use of restaurant robots due to the continuing labor shortages that have been ravaging the industry as the price of food also rises in the wake of the COVID lockdowns and the ongoing crippling inflation.

As explained in a recent report, these new automated machines will be able to brew coffee, grill burgers, and welcome waves of customers for a significantly lower cost when compared to bringing in and paying human workers to do the same job — especially as governments across the country set in place overly draconian lockdown orders,  forcibly shutting down restaurants temporarily and in a few cases permanently.

A report coming from the National Restaurant Association, which was looked over by the Daily Mail, explained that four out of every five operators have been severely understaffed since the inception of the pandemic back in 2020.

Reportedly, White Castle has started testing throughout 100 locations a new robot dubbed Flippy, a kitchen robot built by a California-based tech company called Miso Robotics. The AI-driven machine has the ability to cook well over 300 and deep fry potatoes for roughly $3,000 a month. In a similar vein, Chipotle was able to secure one-armed robots to cook their tortilla chips at 73 different sites for just about the same monthly price.

“The highest value benefit that we bring to a restaurant is not to reduce their expenses, but to allow them to sell more and generate a profit,” explained Miso CEO Mike Bell to CNBC.

Additionally, Starbucks has shelled out $18,000 to get their hands on AI-driven espresso machines to use at roughly 1,200 locations.

As a principal at restaurant research firm Technomic, David Henkes stated to CNBC that the automation experimentation would drive the industry “somewhere at some point.”

“But we’re still a very labor-intensive, labor-driven industry,” stated Henkes.

The vice president for White Castle, Jamie Richardson, stated to the outlet that other changes, such as the Freestyle machines from Coca-Cola, have seen a massive impact in regard to sales.

“Sometimes the bigger automation investments we make aren’t as earth-shattering,” explained Richardson.

Just recently, McDonald’s unveiled a new test restaurant late last month that added automation technology onto roles formerly carried out by employees in Forth Worth, Texas.

“The technology in this restaurant not only allows us to serve our customers in new, innovative ways, it gives our restaurant team the ability to concentrate more on order speed and accuracy, which makes the experience more enjoyable for everyone,” stated the franchisee operating the test restaurant, Keith Vanecek, in a blog post reported by CBS News.


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