First, the development of automation and the push to drive up the minimum wage of a “livable” level of $15/hour started eliminating order takers at counters at #Fast Food places in favor of kiosks. Now a crucial job in the kitchen, that of hamburger flipper, may be the next on the ash heap of history, thanks to a robot named “#Flippy” according to Food and Wine Magazine.
A chain called Caliburger is testing out the robot, created by Miso Robotics, at one of its stores in Pasadena, California. Flippy uses a suite of sensors and cameras to note when the burger has grilled sufficiently on one side before flipping it. Flippy, it is claimed, will grill a perfect burger every time, not to well done and not too raw.
Caliburger intends to install Flippy at 50 of its stores by the end of 2019. The company, at least for now, is claiming that the robot is not going to displace any human workers but will be used more as an assistant to their kitchen staff.
On the other hand, with more kitchen jobs becoming automated, the writing has to be on the wall in the long term. Robots do not show up late, have an attitude toward the boss, or need lengthy bathroom breaks. Nor do they have people campaigning to give them a “livable wage” that is going to cause profit margins to shrink and menu items to become more costly.
On that last problem, some eateries are performing the dodge of keeping the prices of the menu items the same, but tacking on a three to four percent “labor fee” to handle the expense of artificially high minimum wages. In that way, people will still order the more expensive menu items but will still pay the same price when the dinner ticket is delivered.
In any event, the job of “hamburger flipper,” which has gotten such a derogatory reputation as the sort of position that is dead end, boring, and low paying may be about to go away. No one will miss it, except maybe young people looking for that first, menial job on the ladder to career success. The development will be great for customers, however.