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5th May 2022

Jack in the Box to trial robots for kitchen work

Jack in the Box has become the latest American food chain to experiment with automation, as it seeks to handle staffing challenges and improve the efficiency of its service.

Jack in the Box is one of the largest quick service restaurant chains in America, with more than 2,200 branches. With continued staffing challenges impacting its operating hours and costs, Jack in the Box saw a need to revamp its technology and establish new systems – particularly in the back-of-house – that improve restaurant-level economics and alleviate the pain points of working in a high-volume commercial kitchen.

A new partnership has now been formed between Jack in the Box and Miso Robotics, a California-based company which has developed a range of robotic systems for the catering industry. Jack in the Box is beginning a pilot test of "Flippy 2" and "Sippy" – two robots able to handle food preparation and drinks, respectively. Both use artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer vision and data analytics to maximise their efficiency. The initial trial is in San Diego, but if successful, they could be deployed in more branches across the country.



Compared to the original model, Flippy 2 provides 30% more throughput of fried food, requires even less labour to operate and can perform twice as many food preparation tasks. A new "AutoBin" system can handle specialty foods like onion rings and chicken tenders, without the need for human assistance. The AI vision identifies and picks up food before cooking it to perfection within the correct fry basket, then placing it on a hot-holding area.

In addition to its speed and efficiency, another advantage is safety. Less human-to-food contact reduces the potential for dripping oil and burns caused by lifting and moving these baskets. The latest version is also a more compact, modular design, making it adaptable to even tight kitchen spaces. Flippy 2 has a 56% reduced aisle intrusion, 13% height reduction, and fewer surfaces that require cleaning. It offers more than 120 hardware configurations to meet the operational needs of almost any restaurant.

The second of the two machines being trialled is called Sippy, developed in partnership with Lancer Worldwide. This beverage dispenser and sealer includes a fully automatic conveyor that efficiently moves cups along the unit. It accommodates a range of cup sizes, accurately dispensing the correct cup as ordered. It adds the ideal quantity of ice and pours the precise amount of beverage, reducing spills and waste from overfilling. Sippy features "smart grouping" which organises cups in the staging area by order, so that team members can quickly and easily deliver them to the correct guests.

An airtight drink seal provides maximum carbonation retention and spill prevention – perfect for drive-thrus, takeout, and deliveries. This innovation could also protect the environment from millions of wasted plastic lids.

Following the installation of Flippy 2 and Sippy, Jack in the Box will assess the integration of both machines into its day-to-day operations and measure the benefits of a connected kitchen. The hope is that team members will experience an immediate improvement in terms of their workload and responsibilities, allowing them to spend less time at the fryer and drink stations and more time in front of customers.

"Beginning our journey with a premier brand like Jack in the Box is an enormous step in our commitment to helping restaurants increase throughput, reduce costs and create a safer environment for their staff," said Mike Bell, CEO of Miso Robotics. "From tacos and curly fries to fountain sodas, the future is now for Jack in the Box, and we are ecstatic to serve as the company's technological arm to assure a quality product gets into its customers' hands every time they order."

"This collaboration with Miso Robotics is a steppingstone for our back-of-house restaurant operations," said Tony Darden, Chief Operating Officer, Jack in the Box. "We are confident that this technology will be a good fit to support our growing business needs with intentions of having a positive impact on our operations while promoting safety and comfort to our team members. We are looking forward to testing Flippy 2 as the new hire at our San Diego location!"

The U.S. food service industry is already coping with a labour shortfall of 800,000 and is projected to require 1.6 million new employees within the next 10 years. However, this surging demand is likely to go unfulfilled, as the demographic populating restaurants will decline by 1.3 million during that same period. Robots like Flippy and Sippy could help fill those positions, while saving costs and improving the service at many thousands of restaurants.


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