Innovation in fast food industry making 'Fight for Fifteen' irrelevant

"Flippy" is a burger-flipping robot that is just one of the technological innovations in the fast food industry that will eventually make the union-backed "Fight for Fifteen" minimum wage movement irrelevant.

It's hard to fight for increased pay for a job that doesn't exist.

Flippy is a highly sophisticated machine that employs artificial intelligence in a revolutionary way.


Flippy is a brand new, burger flipping robot now cooking at a chain called CaliBurger, which serves up California style burgers and fries.

"The key to success in the restaurant industry is consistency. So anytime you go to a CaliBurger anywhere you know that the patty will be cooked exactly the same," said John Miller, CEO of Cali Group, the company that runs the chain.

The robot was developed by a subsidiary called Miso Robotics.

So how does it work?  Before Flippy can get started, it needs a little human help.  A co-worker puts raw patties on the grill.

"The kitchen of the future will always have people in it, but we see that kitchen as having people and robots," said David Zito, co-founder and chief executive officer of Miso Robotics.

Fewer people, more robots.  While this could be the fate of workers in many industries, the drive for a $15-an-hour minimum wage has accelerated the pace of technological breakthroughs in the fast food industry.

Flippy uses thermal imaging, 3D and camera vision to sense when to flip – and when to remove.

"It detects the temperature of the patty, the size of the patty and the temperature of the grill surface," explained Zito.

The device also learns through artificial intelligence – basically, the more burgers that Flippy flips, the smarter it gets. Right now, cheese and toppings are added by a co-worker.

In addition to consistency and safety, CaliBurger says the robot can cut down on costs.

"It's not a fun job – it's hot, it's greasy, it's dirty," said Miller about the grill cook position.

Less turnover means less time training new grill cooks.

"This technology is not about replacing jobs – we see Flippy as that third hand," said Zito.

In addition to robots, the industry has also introduced fast food, self-serve kiosks, and other A.I. innovations.  The reason? 

Former McDonald's USA CEO Ed Rensi told Fox Business that, "It's cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who's inefficient making $15 an hour bagging French fries."

It's what happens when you completely divorce the cost of labor from the value an employee contributes to a company's operation.  Burger flippers and drive-through window attendants are just not worth $15 an hour to a company's bottom line.  That simple, basic Economics 101 concept is lost on the naïve fast food workers who are oblivious to the fact that a machine can outperform them and has the advantage of never talking back to the boss, is never sick or late, and will work just as hard at the beginning of a shift as at the end.

It's ironic that in pressing for unrealistic wages, fast food workers have spurred companies to innovate.  In effect, they've worked to end their own jobs.

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