Robot chef at Dodger Stadium cooks up cost-friendly season
During the World Series, demand at some Dodger Stadium concession stands soared as much as 70 percent compared to a regular-season game. But for Flippy, Levy Restaurants’ new kitchen assistant robot, that spike in fan traffic carried no emotion, no stress and no deviation from what it has been doing since late July.
The Dodgers’ home World Series games represented a peak demand test and the end of the pilot season for Flippy, the robot Levy developed with California technology startup Miso Robotics. Used to simultaneously run four deep fryers at a fried chicken and tater tots stand, Levy Restaurants and Miso found that Flippy resulted in higher productivity and a marked reduction in food waste compared to human workers.
The efficiency savings were such that Levy Restaurants’ E15 analytics subsidiary estimates that each Flippy can now pay for itself in roughly a year in higher throughput and reduced waste, though the base installation costs have not been disclosed.
The robotic arm uses a combination of cameras, thermal scanners and artificial intelligence to perform kitchen tasks, measure precise food temperatures and supplement work done by human staffers. After several initial tweaks, Flippy is now capable of cooking more than 80 baskets of fried food per hour, and over the course of three months at Dodger Stadium it cooked more than 17,000 total pounds of chicken and tater tots. And at Chavez Ravine, Flippy was adorned in the Dodgers’ iconic blue and white, even as it was not readily visible to the public.
“The big takeaway for us after using this for a half season is that it worked, which is really no small thing,” said Jaime Faulkner, E15 chief executive. Faulkner and Miso Robotics led tours of Flippy for many visiting sports executives during the World Series games at Dodger Stadium. “There were a lot of questions about Flippy going into this, both internally and externally. But the gains we saw in volume and efficiency validated a lot of our expectations, and we still believe we’re on to something revolutionary.”
Levy and the Dodgers are now beginning talks toward possible additional Flippy installations at other Dodger Stadium concession stands, and the technology will be rolled out at other Los Angeles sports venues, including Staples Center. In each instance, though, Levy is seeking to work with local unions to ensure that human workers affected by Flippy are shifted to front-of-house roles and that there is no reduction in workforce.
“Technology for technology’s sake doesn’t work,” Faulkner said. “This is still fundamentally about serving the fan better.”