Robot cooks are increasing in popularity all over the world. Did you know that there are actually robots that can flip burgers, bake bread, and serve them both? These cooking robots are in growing demand as the world reshapes around the coronavirus. In the midst of a pandemic, more staff and cooks can mean more risk of spreading the highly transmittable virus. Enter the cooking robot Flippy at White Castle.

Beginning in the fall of 2020, White Castle burger chain plans to implement a test robot that can cook french fries and other food. The robot, called Flippy, was created by the California based company Miso Robotics. 

White Castle and the robotics company had been discussing a partnership that was accelerated when COVID-19 began, explains White Castle Vice President Jamie Richardson. He says that “The world’s just reshaped in terms of thoughts around food safety,”

Flippy the robot cook currently costs $30,000, with a $1,500 monthly service fee. However, Miso hopes to offer the robot for free but with a higher monthly fee by the middle of next year.

Robot cooks have been on the rise even before the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe. Eateries such as hospitals and campus cafeterias often struggle to meet the demand for fresh customized food options 24 hours a day while also being able to afford workers. There are robot cooks already in place at stores such as Creator, a burger restaurant in San Francisco, and Dal.komm Coffee in South Korea.

Many are suggesting that the robots are no longer a novelty, but perhaps a necessity. Although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control say the risk of contracting the coronavirus from food outside the home is low, there have still been employees and patrons of restaurants that have tested positive for the virus.

Cooking robots sound like a great idea in the midst of the pandemic. What could go wrong? An automated machine assemble food and theoretically lessens the spread of the virus. Robots cooks could also help to free up other workers to disinfect tables or make sure that guests are following health and safety protocols. However, there is also a potential danger in automating the fast-food service. If cooking robots become a staple at fast food joints, this could lead to fewer job opportunities for actual humans.

As technology continues to develop, some fast-food workers are already being replaced by touch screen kiosks that are placed at the register or at the guest’s table. As the coronavirus continues to affect not only people’s lives but also the economy, the danger is automating the fast-food service industry lies in the possibility of decreasing jobs, therefore contributing to the national unemployment rate.