Large Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) Jack in the Box joins the list of restaurants leveraging automation to reduce labor requirements.
The company announced on Tuesday (April 26) that it is partnering with robot-as-a-service company Miso Robotics to pilot-test the robotics company’s Flippy 2 deep fryer and its Sippy beverage vending machine.
“This collaboration with Miso Robotics is a stepping stone for our back-of-the-house restaurant operations,” Jack in the Box COO Tony Darden said in a statement.
“We are confident that this technology will be well suited to meet our growing business needs with the intention of having a positive impact on our operations while promoting the safety and comfort of our team members.”
The news comes as many restaurant brands are turning to robotic solutions to address the labor challenges they face. Fast-casual chain Chipotle Mexican Grill, for example, recently announced testing of an autonomous artificial intelligence (AI) kitchen assistant created by Miso dubbed “Chippy”, which cooks tortillas according to the brand’s recipe. Meanwhile, Brinker International, parent company of Chili’s Grill and Bar and Maggiano’s Little Italy, is testing a waiter robot titled “Rita,” created by Bear Robotics, in dozens of locations across Chile.
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Restaurants are shifting their technology focus from customer experience to operational efficiency
These labor issues remain a major concern for many restaurants. The total number of employees in the restaurant industry has recovered significantly from the worst months of the pandemic, but it still has not returned to 2019 levels. In March, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the United States, employment in the food services and drinking places (bars and restaurants) subsector of the hospitality industry was down 4% from March 2019, but up 13% compared to 12 months earlier.
While a 4% drop might not seem that big, it’s worth noting that consumers are ordering from restaurants for a greater number of total occasions than in pre-pandemic years, with the rise in digital ordering leading to an increase from home-cooked meals that consumers buy from restaurants.
In fact, according to data from the PYMNTS 2021 How We Eat Playbook, created in collaboration with Fiserv’s Carat, which is inspired by a balanced census survey of more than 5,200 American adults, restaurant customers now number 31 % more likely to buy meals. for consumption outside the establishment and for dining on site.
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In an interview with Karen Webster of PYMNTS, Andrew Robbins, CEO of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) customer experience management (CXM) solutions provider Paytronix, discussed how staffing issues continue to hamper the ability of restaurants to meet the demand for restaurant meals.
“[Restaurants are] always in trouble. So income is up, catering is up, and it could really be a booming market for them if they can get the labor,” he said. “There are still people closing, not doing all day that they normally would and closing some nights. … It’s still a real problem.
Related News: Labor challenges stifle potential restaurant boom, says Paytronix CEO
So many restaurants are looking for automated solutions to increase the total number of orders they are able to process. Now, as tech vendors race to deliver the most advanced solutions, some in the space are advising caution.
In a February interview with PYMNTS, Jake Brewer, chief strategy officer at Miso Robotics, warned that the rush to develop new products could come at the expense of making the best use of existing technologies.
“It’s the old adage: one in the hand is worth two in the bush,” he says. “You could always hunt two of these two birds in the bush and never catch them… Many of these brands, including Miso, have several products in hand that we know work and we know solve a big problem in the world. ‘industry… [Some] people have been chasing that next big innovation forever, and they never really do their first project.
See also: Robotics could be integrated into digital restaurant systems within a year