The Ever-Accelerating Automation Of Fast Food

In the fast food industry, speed is everything. The concept has never just been about cooking quickly. Players in this competitive space spend huge fortunes every year on optimizing every aspect of the experience, from ordering, to queueing, to cleaning up afterwards. And while fast food restaurants are major employers worldwide, there’s always been a firm eye cast over the gains that automation has to offer.

Flipping Burgers

In the West, fast food most commonly brings burgers to mind. Preparing a quality burger requires attention to the grade of meat, fat content, as well as the preparation steps before it hits the grill. Then it’s all about temperature and time, and getting just the right sear to bring out the natural flavors of the beef. While a boutique burger joint will employ a skilled worker to get things just right, that doesn’t fly for fast food. Every order needs to be preparable by whichever minimum-wage worker got the shift, and be as repeatable as possible across entire countries, or even the world, to meet customer expectations.

Flippy ROAR (Robot On A Rail) at work on the fryers in a White Castle in Chicago.

In their efforts to improve efficiency, White Castle have taken the bold step of installing a robotic burger flipper, imaginitively named Flippy. Built by Miso Robotics, the robot hangs from a ceiling rail to minimise the space taken up in the kitchen area. Based on a Fanuc robot arm, the system uses artificial intelligence to manage kitchen resources, Flippy is capable of managing both the grill and fryers together to ensure fries don’t get cold while the burgers are still cooking, for example. Currently undergoing a trial run in Chicago, White Castle has ambitions to roll the technology out to further stores if successful.

We’ve seen other robotic burger systems before, too. In late 2018, our own [Brian Benchoff] went down to check out Creator, which cooks and assembles its burgers entirely by machine. Despite suspicions about the business model, Creator have persisted until the present day with their unique blend of technology and culinary arts. Particularly impressive were their restaurant modifications in the face of COVID-19. The restaurant received an overhaul, with meals being robotically prepared directly in a take-out box with no human contact. Take-out meals are double-bagged and passed to customers through an airlock, with a positive-pressure system in the restaurant to protect staff from the outside world.


Pizza is a staple food for many, with high demand and a stronger dependence on delivery than other fast food options. This has led to the industry exploring many avenues for automation, from preparation to order fulfillment.

In terms of outright throughput, Zume were a startup that led the charge. Their system involves multiple robots to knead dough, apply sauce and place the pie in the oven. Due to the variable nature sizes and shapes of various toppings, these are still applied by humans in the loop. Capable of turning out 120 pizzas per hour, a single facility could compete with many traditional human-staffed pizza shops. They also experimented with kitchens-on-wheels that use predictive algorithms to stock out trucks that cook pizzas on the way to the customer’s door. Unfortunately, despite a one-time $4 billion USD valuation, the startup hit a rocky patch and is now focusing on packaging instead.

Picnic aim to make lots of pizza, fast. Their business model involves working directly with existing restaurants, rather than creating their own fast-food brand from scratch.

Picnic have gone further, claiming an output rate of up to 300 twelve-inch pies an hour. The startup aims to work with a variety of existing pizza restaurants, rather than striking out as their own brand. One hurdle to overcome is the delivery of a prepared pizza into the oven. There are many varieties and kinds of pizza oven used in commercial settings, and different loading techniques are required for each. This remains an active area of development for the company. The company has a strong focus on the emerging ghost kitchen model, where restaurants are built solely to fulfill online delivery orders, with no dining area.

Domino’s is one of the largest pizza companies in the world, and thus far have focused their efforts on autonomous delivery. The DRU, or Domino’s Robotic Unit, was launched to much fanfare, promising to deliver pizzas by a small wheeled robotic unit. Equipped with sensors to avoid obstacles and GPS navigation, the project has not entered mainstream service just yet. However, between this and the multitude of companies exploring drone delivery, expect to see this become more of a thing in coming years.

Despite the marketing sizzle, the DOM Pizza Checker does not project holograms.

A more immediate innovation from Domino’s has been the DOM Pizza Checker. With customer complaints about pizza quality plaguing the chain, the pizza checker is an AI-powered visual system. It’s responsible for determining if the correct pizza has been made, with the right toppings and good distribution. An impressive practical use of AI imaging technology, it sounds an alarm if the pizza isn’t up to scratch, prompting it to be remade. However, it has come under scrutiny as a potential method to harass franchisees and workers. Additionally, the limitations of the system mean that Domino’s are still perfectly capable of turning out a bad pizza on occasion.

Other Efforts

One of the most visible examples of fast food automation is the widespread adoption of order kiosks by McDonalds, which kicked off in earnest in 2015. The majority of stores in the US now rely on these to speed up the ordering process, while also enabling more customization for customers with less fuss. Over-the-counter ordering is still possible at most locations, but there’s a heavy emphasis on using the new system.

McDonald’s automated beverage dispenser will be a familiar sight to many. Considered a great help when it works, and a great hindrance when it jams, spills, or simply shuts down.

In general, online ordering and delivery has become the norm, where ten years ago, the idea of getting McDonalds delivered was considered magical and arcane. This writer made seven attempts to take advantage of an early version of the service in China in 2015, succeeding only once, largely due to a lack of understanding of addresses written in non-Latin characters. However, due to the now-ubiquitous nature of services like Ubereats, Postmates, and Menulog, it’s simple for any restaurant to largely automate their ordering and fulfillment process, and reach customers at a distance from their brick-and-mortar locations.

Other efforts are smaller in scope, but contribute to great efficiency gains back-of-house. McDonalds and other chains have widely adopted automated beverage systems. Capable of automatically dispensing cups and the requisite fluids, they take instructions directly from the digital ordering system and take the manual labor out of drink preparation. They’re also great at slightly underfilling the cups, in a way that any human would consider incredibly rude.


Robots in the fast-food kitchen stand to reduce or eliminate tedious, repetitive work. Robots don’t get sick, and less human labour means fewer rostering hassles. It seems to be a foregone conclusion that more automation is on the way, and while some startups may falter, others will surely succeed. Your next meal may just yet be entirely prepared by a robot, even if it’s still delivered by a tired grad student on a moped. Come what may!


85 thoughts on “The Ever-Accelerating Automation Of Fast Food

      1. Robots might be taking over some of the food prep but someone still has to take out the trash, clean the grills, drain and refill the fryers, stock products and packaging and set everything up so the robot can do what is perhaps the easiest job in the house, flip burgers. Frankly, automation up front is great because workers don’t have to deal with the worst aspect of the business, snarky customers, as much. I’ve worked fastfood when I was younger and its a thankless job that everyone feels free to spit upon those that do it.

        1. Just wait , its a matter of time and then they will have automation to do that too.
          This is only aout ONE thing.
          get rid of the human workers … Its ONLY profit , nothing else.
          In japan they already have fully automated eating places and Yes , even trash and floor washing
          is automated. Bye bye to the poorest paid jobs that the Un-skilled workers could get..
          This is just the beginning as automation and AI is taken over and the few in the top getting rid
          of as many workers as possible.
          I know you all ( just as me ) like new technology but there should be a limit in its use when it
          come to the point where it take jobs away. With increasing number of people who can’t get a job
          we will only see more and more crime. ( how else can they get money and food ? )
          And plz , do Not comment back with the usual nonsense about new tech and new jobs , those are
          only very small numbes on a paper compared to what is lost.
          Look at those fully automated road line painting cars ( they do not even have a driver )
          Not only they paint those road lines faster they also take away many many jobs.
          They are on the way from japan and US factories to be ready to work in very short time
          ( in some places they already is out working )
          Typically there is a crew of 4 to 5 people painting the roads in each section.
          but that painting car can replace more than a 200 people when compared to the work
          done and time it take.
          And this is just a few examples.
          Those people with very little or no education at all will loose their jobs and this will only
          increase year for year and at same time the crime rate will also increase too .

          Plz do not comment back with the usual defending of all this because
          1 I dont reply
          2 Its a fact that this steal jobs in exchange for big profit to the top.
          3 technology is good but as we all know , the greedy will use it bad.

          1. Ps , I forgot to say , those few times i actually buy fast food , I REALLY enjoy that
            its PEOPLE who making it.
            It’s so great that can just say to the person who flip the burger
            ” give it a little more roast on both sides ” and I get it just as I like …
            NOTHING can replace the personal contact with those who make the food.
            have a nice day ..

          2. Hey Ken, It is pretty rude to leave a long opinionated comment and then tell everyone “Plz do not respond…”. Sorry dude – but I will respond because this is America (at least for now) and we have freedom of speech. The reason all this is coming around is because well meaning, but clueless activists have been pushing minimum wage laws to force companies to pay people more than the work is worth. Paying someone $15 and hour to flip burgers and clean floors just doesn’t work – companies cannot afford it and no one wants to pay $20 for a burger meal in order to support it. So pass the law and here come the robots and machines. Good job, now we have robots, and no one is collecting that $15 an hour wage. Guess we should have let the market decide. That helped no-one but the companies that make robots.

          3. >UBI is the solution to that problem.

            UBI is the solution to no problem. The requirement to work for a living is a natural limiter on the people’s appetite to consume stuff – you don’t work, you don’t eat.

            With UBI and unemployment by automation, the vast majority would have nothing else to do than waste resources and make babies, so creating a Malthusian catastrophe, which then would have to be limited by the state and you end up with a totalitarian dystopia.

            It’s rather that work needs to be distributed more evenly, and we need to stop paying for things that aren’t work – like all sorts of intellectual property rackets where you’re paying just to have the right to see or hear something.

        2. When it was the 25th anniversary at a major restaurant anniversary, the restaurant chain would not let the news cameras into their kitchen. Food bakes onto the cooking utensils and after using a power wash to remove the baked on food, they found that new food they cooked stuck to the cooking instruments faster which made it not worth it to them. You might wonder why it sticks on at all and it is because it is all about speed and how much time you want to devote to cleaning because the manager won’t let the employees. It is all about production and profits.

          The workers cannot chase all of the flies out of their kitchens.
          The average worker was supposed to wash their hands every half hour or so but they don’t.
          Most of the workers I saw went from mopping the floor to making food without washing their hands.
          I’ve seen employees take meat that has fallen on the floor and put it in the burger and sell it.
          We’ve been sold raw meat because they set the stoves so the burgers sit in the warmers all day and they don’t want you to notice their short cuts.

          Lets talk about something common like chicken nuggets? What color are they and what color are they supposed to be? How often do you think they change the oil? They actually use a vacuum cleaner like device and filter the breading out until they change the oil so the oil sits in the vats at the restaurant until they decide when its time to change the oil and nuggets can go from the color yellow to dark brown.

          You are really at the mercy of them because the health department doesn’t have the power to do anything because I’ve called them on the phone and talked to them and even though we’ve had workers who have gone to the bathroom every time at certain restaurants, the health inspectors give me reasons why they can’t do anything.

          The food is always greasy at another restaurant chain which makes me speculate they are keeping food longer and moist instead of throwing it out by keeping it greasy.

          And I’ve been through drive throughs during the pandemic and the workers were wearing masks below the neck so what makes you think they will clean the robots?

          1. Wow – do you have a laundry list of misc issues with restaurants. No one is forcing you to eat out, so maybe you should make all your own meals and then you will have no worries.

        3. We’re chipping away at all those things people still think humans need to do. My company develops automated/robotic restaurant solutions. In the last few years, we’ve even gone to market with robotic range hood cleaning systems that clean out hoods every day in 3-minute spurts rather than shutting down the kitchen for an evening to have a team of folks come in and scrub/scrape charred fat from the hoods/vents…. this thing alone threatens a whole field of niche kitchen servicing human workers.

          We tackle fryer handling too with systems that automatically pump/fill fryers with fresh oil, auto-filter it at ideal times, and handle disposal to water-heater looking tanks in the back of the building. They even spit out metrics about the efficiency of human frycooks at the helm (Ugh… no one wants robots bossing them around ).

          All these things communicate via vast IOT infrastructure to our datacenter where systems automatically schedule service, deliveries of oil, detergents, supplies. The system finds our trucks roaming the countryside (trucks are all carrying IOT and many sensors monitoring their contents) and re-directs trucks based on efficiency and what’s onboard. A common market like the greater MPLS area only has 4-6 vehicles to service 1000 restaurants and we can manage that no problem thanks to these highly developed automated systems.

          This stuff isn’t really new. We’ve been at this for almost 30 years and our systems are in over 30,000 US restaurants today….demand is insatiable. We use a service model though, we don’t sell you a $20,000 robotic system. We sell you a service for a monthly fee… Never clean your hoods again for $x.xx per month sort of thing. Prototype and pilot automation always costs excessive $$$. A little willpower, engineering and manufacturing at scale changes that pretty dramatically.

    1. Notice what makes their utopia work: absolute surveillance society with telepathic communication between brains, and a hyper-moral AI to prevent anyone from simply brain-controlling people.

      The author skips over the “zombie” issue with a handwave that brains can’t be programmed, but in reality they can. They have a virtual reality system where all you need to be is a brain in a vat, so you can easily lock people into virtual realities where they’re conditioned to act as your personal army and take over the whole thing. Hence the hyper-moral AI that prevents anyone from doing that – essentially a God they’ve invented for themselves that watches over people.

    2. I read the whole thing and I love where it goes. However, it’s obvious it comes from someone who either doesn’t have enough real world experience with real human beings, or someone who is hopelessly optimistic (like me).

      He completely ignores two things:

      1. Human nature
      2. Once you have a perfect plan, refer to #1 for the way it will be dismantled.

      The end-game of human intelligent existence is to create a world where everyone can do whatever they want as long as they don’t hurt someone else? Gee, that sounds like my life in America, and the reason I’m so successful and happy today.

      So, why are there any unhappy people around me when we all have the same opportunities to do whatever we want?

      Human nature:

      1. Some people like more than anything else to hurt other people.
      2. Some people like to fear other people.
      3. Some people simply want to make sure they have more than anyone else.

      So, on #1, what happens, do you just keep sending those people back to orientation? Believe me, those people will make a lifetime out of that, and will never change. Today we call them career criminals. And so someone is always getting hurt, defeating the purpose of this utopia.

      What about #2? I mean, they could just isolate themselves and be happily fearful, but it’s not the fearing of other people that’s the problem, it’s what human beings do when they fear others. See #1.

      What about #3? There are a lot of people who simply compete to get the most stuff/resources because that’s who they are. It’s part of what has made us so successful as a species. So, they just keep being sent back to orientation? Again, see both #1 and #2.

      Being hopelessly optimistic, I’d like to believe that, given a perfect utopia for a childhood, every human being would end up avoiding what we know in #1, #2, and #3 are human nature. But, part of the reason we call it human “nature” is that it’s “nature”, not “nurture”. The entire basis of his utopia is “nurture”, but if he’s ever actually come to know a truly evil human being, he’d realize that true evil is simply built into every one of us. Most, if not many, of us simply override those dark aspects of ourselves, but they are always there in us.

      I see his utopia as kind of the “first matrix” from the Matrix movies. Some percentage of human beings who are simply hard coded to embrace those dark aspects of human nature in #1, #2, and #3 will always reject it.

      So, we’re going toward a world like in his story where most people embrace the matrix, but a minority live outside of the utopia in the best, worst world a human can create?

      I’m sorry, but maybe it’s because I live in the minority that actually likes and values a life of working for what I have that I believe the “utopia” in that story is actually what Earth will end up like after the people in my minority have left it for other planets, stars, and better opportunities. Most Earthers will be happy to be left behind to live in that “utopia”, the same way that most people today are happy just collecting a paycheck and going home every single day of their lives. It’s a perfect evolution of life for those people.

      Ironically, now I think the only thing wrong with his story and his “utopia” is that it only envisions a small part of mankind’s future, ignoring the rest of us who are actually responsible for creating that second intelligent species that makes the future “utopia” possible.

  1. While the technological advancement is cool and I appreciate the efforts. I can’t say I’m a huge proponent of the “automate all the things” movement when there is no forethought into mitigating the 2nd and 3rd order effects that this will have on the labor market and subsequently the economy and the unemployment rate.

    1. Where were you when the plow was invented, putting thousands of peasants out of work? What’s really bad is that you think that our economy depends on useless jobs, you sound like one of those Soviet era communists who insisted that the peasants build cars that nobody wanted.

      1. Automation makes no sense as long as there are unemployed and otherwise idle people.

        That’s because it costs the society to maintain the person who does no work, and it also costs the society to maintain the automation that does the work. As long as the two can be made one, it’s always cheaper that the person does the work, and the spared resources can be spent on maintaining higher living standards.

        1. The Heath care required by a worker injured on the job can vastly exceed the wages they will earn in their lifetime. Seriously you would replace a car-painting robot with a person?

          1. yes, car painting robots leave what’s called “orange peel”. If you really want a good paint job, you wet sand that bitch to a mirror finish you could spot a frog hair on. ie: your robots are literally no good at painting despite popular belief. it’s just that your standards are sub par.

          2. Obviously you do not break people with work.

            The point is that there is already a significant portion of the population that does not do any meaningful work. The services economy is based on people inventing new ways to consume resources and make others consume resources in order to catch the spillover. The more waste you cause, the more you get paid. A perfect example is a youtube video game star, who literally does nothing but burn electricity for money.

            If this person were to spend one or few hours of their day doing something that brings actual value back to the system, we would avoid having to spend resources in building a robot for that task, and they would spend one less hour wasting resources which could then be spared to sustain someone else who is currently poor. This is a win-win-win proposal.

            Instead of automating everything, you simply spread work more evenly, and if this is not sufficient to produce all the items that people want, then you can have the robots – but not before everyone is gainfully employed.

        2. I welcome it because I refuse to eat at the local fast food restaurant because the workers have been taking bites out of my food, selling me food that makes me sick, and wearing masks below the chin during the pandemic. I’d rather go hungry than be on the toilet all day. I’ve tried to give them a chance but when they give me a burger full of grease, there is no redemption for them and the manager won’t change things.

    1. I thought about it once, but if you run the numbers, you rapidly see that a student cost so little and can do so many different and new tasks without any additional cost/programming that robot are just way too expensive (when I see robot arms that cost at least 15000€ l don’t really see how automation can really become a thing while people accept/are forced to do low paying job)

    2. AMFARE built by American Machine and Foundry, manufacturers of everything from soccer balls to nuclear reactors, was a highly automated fast-food restaurant with at least three locations in the US Northeast in the mid 1960’s. Only 3 people were required for operation. One to take orders, pushing the buttons to enter them into ORBIS (ORdering and BIlling System), one to take the food delivered by the machines and place it onto trays, one waitress/carhop to deliver the trays to the customers in the dining lobby or their cars. The guy in the back was also responsible for loading the uncooked food products into the machines.

      A modern version would skip the ORBIS console and human operator, using touch screens at the parking spots and tables. Robots (like the ABB Flexpicker) can handle food items, so no job for a human tray loader. Even the person to carry the trays to the customers, and do tray retrieval and cleanup can be replaced with robots.

  2. Well over a decade ago a mcdonalds local to me (seattle) installed a robotic fry cook, it was a simple horizontal linear rail with a descending “arm” that could couple to the handles of the deep fryer baskets. There was a wrist axis but I think it was fixed to just rotate far enough to dump the fries out. Might have been pneumatic.
    No fancy 6-axis arm with shiny plastic fairings, computer vision or anything like that; just some dingy sheet metal parts and microswitches.
    Knowing what I do now about industrial robot safety there’s no way it complied with standards to keep nearby humans in a busy restaurant kitchen safe, unburned and unentangled with the mechanisms. It vanished sometime between when I saw it and the next time I visited. I never found out what it was called or if it had more widespread adoption.

    1. I have seen some fast food restaurant fryers with automated baskets. It’s integrated into the fryer instead of an addon. A worker grabs baskets filled automatically with frozen fries then clips them onto the vertical lifts at the rear of the fryer tanks. The baskets get gently lowered into the oil and after the programmed time they’re lifted up then shaken a couple of times to dislodge excess oil. No more overcooked fries from workers ignoring the plaintive beeping of the fryer alarms.

  3. Yeah, that makes sense. Put a $200k robot on the ceiling and $10k per year maintenance contract to deal with fryers rather than $10-20k to do the same thing with a few industrial motors on the fryer or pay someone $15 an hour to deal with the fryer AND perform 20 other tasks.

    1. $15 per hour salary implies other mandatory costs like insurance and social security payments, and really turns out more like $30-40k per year, and you can double that for the day and night shift, or triple if the restaurant is open around the clock.

      It can pay back in 2-6 years depending on the location.

    2. Besides, with minimum wage laws and UBI proposals, that $15 per hour is not going to be $15 for long.

      Rather, with the sort of mandatory minimum income comes mandatory minimum costs, because people find out they can charge up to this minimum amount anyways for food, housing, transportation… When I was traveling around in the Nordics, people complained that every time the governments raised the minimum welfare compensation for housing, the private property owners (and state owned companies alike) raised their minimum rents in equal amounts. What people get by default becomes the new zero, and they will always demand more.

  4. Not cost effective. Hackaday did a article on a robot hamburger maker in SF IMS, it still took a worker to feed it and do other things it couldn’t, also it needed a human to clean it every shift. which negated the value of it.

    That said any fast food joint wanting to automate food preparation and cooking is going to be shoving what amounts to tasteless crap to it;s customers,

    1. A normal kitchen isn’t designed to be easily cleaned by anything but a human, but assembly line cooking machines would allow some cleaning methods humans would not be able to pull off. The machine doesn’t necessarily care if it’s filled entirely with steam for a couple minutes, a human in a kitchen definitely would.

  5. I grew up in a small Dutch village in the late 1960’s and a local shop had a machine outside that fried & served french fries. It wasn’t a great succes and prone to break down so after a year or two it just rusted away unused. But it was way ahead of its time and I never saw another one.

  6. It will all soon be 3D printed from synthetic Soylent protein, delivered by drones, and fired into your house using the methane generated from eating the ‘food’ which also powers the drones and heats the food. Totally green.

  7. In the CPG world where I spin, growth in the has been because of the rise of “cobots” – simple-ish smart manipulators (let’s face it, most of these “robots” can’t sing Daisy or defend Gort) that work alongside people doing the utterly monotonous, repetitive things; pick this up (perhaps with a bit of machine vision help), put it over there, close the lid, give it a push. The manufacturing people love them, not so much for cost savings, but “Because they show up sober on Monday morning”. So the actual considerations are overwhelmingly reducing costs of errors, rework and missing workers – human variability.

    “Robotic” kitchen help is already in place – automated flow dispensers on drink machines and the like, but the idea of a Robby the Robot in a chef’s toque is a lot farther off, Moley Robotics’ many promises notwithstanding. Imagine the bizarre outcomes of an AI system for telling if a preformed burger was actually cooked would entail, given the random silliness and occasional disaster that is produced with other applications.

    It’s also telling that there is no real research and development being done for the market except on an ad hoc basis – we were taken to task years ago (“You make all this stuff for factories but where’s our help in the kitchen?”), but the answer was simple: “Who’s going to support the development?”. End of conversation.

    These devices and systems will be organically integrated into restaurants as they evolve, but I’ve seen very few that are not just adaptations of things built for other more automation-tolerant production systems, or just bloviation and spin for the press and a push-back against higher minimum wages.

    1. Well food preparation isn’t just restaurants (fast or otherwise). From airplane food to prison. Schools and otherwise, there’s room for mass-produced meals (TV-dinners).

  8. That Dominos DRU robot thing was pure marketing wank. I’m certain they ever made a single legitimate delivery with it, only staged press events.

    My hackerspace (at the time) was near the Dominos that was doing the DRU promotion, and they had absolutely no interest in doing a delivery to us. Then again, all those “hackers”… they could have damaged the robot with their balaclavas and keyboard typing skills!

  9. I had the pleasure of having a tiny part in the development of the Jevo automatic Jello shot making machine. What could be simpler – just add gelatine, sugar and flavoring to hot water, stir to dissolve, cool some, add alcoholic drink, pour into tiny cups, chill until firm. Easy, right? Except to handle all Food and Drug Administration requirements, all conceivable failure modes including operator error, having it order supplies as they get low, etc. resulted in a multi year project with the first units costing over US$10k each. I learned a lot during those three months and have deep respect for anyone who makes it in that business!

    1. These challenges are real and starting up in restaurant automation from scratch would be a giant challenge. The trick is to already have a customer base in that field. We got started early with those syrup based soda dispensers a few decades ago…. got into thousands of restaurants… big franchise fast food and the like. In the early 2000’s we got into robotics and automation hardcore. Our prototypes and pilot units regularly exceed $10,000 per unit…. and we don’t even charge customers to pilot this stuff.

      However, if you’ve got a hot product/solution and pre-existing contracts with the big guys like McDonalds and BK, scaling solves all these problems. Once one of those big contracts gives the green-light, you know you can start planning for economies of scale (10,000+ units). The cost savings per unit on prototype vs 10,000+ piece serial production cannot be overstated.

      The stuff still isn’t cheap. But we largely avoid any sticker shock and make for easy sells by continuing to own the equipment and simply billing the restaurant a monthly fee to have their fries cook automatically, grill hoods auto-cleaned, etc. Those contracts are typically structured for 5-7 year terms and more than pay for the gear. Best part is, if they don’t want to renew, we pull the gear, refurbish and sell it again.

  10. It can be fully robotised, faster than light, delivered through your door or even window, extruded in any shape, loaded with additives, transformed in any way: junk food will always be JUNK.

  11. “slightly underfilling the cups, in a way that any human would consider incredibly rude.”
    Am I the only one who hates this particular piece of retail psychology? Apparently every fast food item you get is destined to spill because a small cup full to overflowing “feels like” more drink than the same volume of liquid in a container big enough to hold it without spilling. This is why it’s impossible to get cinema popcorn without dropping some on the floor. Give me a sensible amount of food in a container big enough to contain it and I will be a happy bunny.

    1. It is most certainly possible to avoid spilling even a single piece of popcorn on the floor but you apparently haven’t figured out that you are not required to buy popcorn. Talk about psychology!

      1. It is a general rule that any food vendor, soda machine, etc. will oversell you more product than you would freely buy for two reasons: giving the illusion that you’re getting your money’s worth (i.e. giving you the “baker’s dozen”), while maintaining slightly higher prices and not giving you options to buy the amount you actually want. It’s the age-old “buy three pay two” fallacy when all you really wanted is one of a thing. Well, they aren’t selling you just the one.

        This results in popcorn boxes that are overfilled regardless of the size, big gulp sodas that you have to consume before they go flat, and restaurants that always serve enough food on your plate to feed two people at minimum – and it’s always the cheapest ingredient like rice or fries piled up.

        I mean, I’m a normal size guy – 5’10” and 190 lbs – and I can’t finish most restaurant meals. If I did, I would be morbidly obese in less than a year.

  12. “Preparing a quality burger requires attention to the grade of meat, fat content”
    The author left out “breeding and feeding a cow”. Fast food cooks do none of those things.

    White Castle burgers are famously steamed so it’s hard to see how the robot gets any grill practice.

    Costco’s pizza crusts are made by machine and the tomato sauce is applied by a robot.

    “Domino’s are” s.b. “Domino’s is”

  13. I ran across a pizzabot in a hotel about 20 years ago, where its inventor was staging a demonstration in the hopes someone would buy it. This one had to be loaded with premade crusts, and it could then apply sauce, toppings, and cheese on a conveyor belt before baking the pizza. It appeared to need purpose-built applicators for each type of topping – the pepperoni was sliced off a long sausage, for instance.

  14. Still at the end of the day we are still stuck with such low quality food that it’s only fit for pets and swine, Have any of you tasted a Carls Jr burger or Micky dee’s gloppy Big Mac? They are horrible the same applies to those chain pizzerias like Little Caesars..

    Worse when you factor in the price of a fast food meal it’s only a bit cheaper than a real meal that actually has taste and fit for humans.

    1. The real price of a burger is actually quite terrible: factor in the adverse health costs, and environmental disaster of mass production of meat, and it easily blows the price of healthy, normal, locally produced, tasty food

      1. My health is fine, thank you very much.
        Environmental disaster? What has the environment ever done for me?

        healthy: the dose makes the poison
        normal: if hamburgers are not normal, what is?
        locally produced: we have airplanes and trucks, and there are cattle ranches in Hawaii.
        tasty: you mean what people enjoy eating?

  15. Another big step backwards for automation is Coke’s “Freestyle” dispenser. Previously you could fill your cup within seconds, even if another user was also filling theirs from another nozzle. But with Freestyle you stand there behind a line of people plodding thru endless menues–and far too many choices–often leading to a message that that particular combination is currently out of supply. Question: What problem did they think this machine was solving?

  16. I am all for this. Maybe my food will come out correctly. Let’s face it if humans would just care a little bit and not make so many dumb mistakes because they just do not care about the “crappy” job they have then this would never happen. People would rather hire people, but when folks can’t show up to work and then if they do show up they cannot get the most basic things right then this is what happens.

    If you are a person that might get impacted by this, the best thing you can do is your job better than the automation can. Pretty simple stuff, it is all up to you. Stop messing up orders, come to work on time and do something that any piece of automation can never do…Have a great attitude while you do your job…I think you will find that slows the adoption of automation.

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