Nala Robotics has launched a fast-food robot that it says can fry chicken wings, fries and other foods, season them and plate them autonomously. It’s called “the Wingman,” and it’s available to rent for $2,999/month.
“The Wingman is our latest robot to help restaurants and other food suppliers increase kitchen and large-scale production efficiency, while minimizing the potential for contamination,” said Ajay Sunkara, CEO of Nala. Robotics, in a statement. “It’s no secret that chicken wings are a hugely popular food choice in America and around the world, prepared in a variety of styles and cuisines. This is where our technology is essential, where we can cook an endless array of dishes, while meeting strong consumer demand as labor shortages continue to challenge the industry worldwide.
According to Nala, Wingman can cook several different foods at the same time and season them individually. It can take food out of a frozen storage and distribution area, fry it, season it, and plate it ready to serve. Wingman can also bread chicken, toss fries, and add dry rub to wings.
The Wingman joins burger-making robots like Miso Robotics’ Flippy that White Castle recently purchased for 100 of its locations and other food robots that automate food processing, cooking and presentation, especially in establishments. fast food. The result over time could be fast food restaurants that need far fewer human workers, if at all.
“With its built-in clean-in-place functionality, The Wingman uses artificial intelligence and high-performance camera and vision systems to dramatically improve the efficiency of high-volume frying, while maintaining high-quality consistency,” says Nala Robotics.
At $3,000 a month, Wingman is already cheaper than a human worker. In fact, significantly cheaper.
Even though the human worker’s hourly wage is $7/hour, Wingman saves restaurateurs 20% on labor costs. However, with the ongoing labor shortage, many fast-food restaurants struggling to retain employees find themselves having to pay $15 an hour. And a new law signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom this month will push wages for some fast-food workers to $22/hour.
(It should be noted that an inflation-adjusted minimum wage should actually be significantly higher.)
At $22/hour, Wingman will save employers 75% on wages, assuming 18 hours of operation per day in an average 30-day month. Naturally, restaurants that are open 24/7 will save even more.
All of this means that as robots get better and humans get more expensive, we might seem to lose jobs massively. In May 2021, there were more than three million “fast food and counter” workers in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Around the fifth or seventh year, you’re going to start to see a lot of…a lot or all of the new kitchens are completely reinvented, completely self-contained, no humans in the back of the house, 25% of the square footage in square feet, probably fits into a shipping container, completely changing the entire industry and potentially disrupting the franchise model,” Miso Robotics co-founder Buck Jordan told me in late 2020.
It’s only three to five years from now.
Of course, the reality is that you will always need people to stock the freezer with food, clean up, deliver food to customers, and handle payment. Proponents of bots say it frees people up to do what they’re best at: higher-value tasks like interacting with customers.
That’s probably true, to some degree.
But it’s also likely that the introduction of more and more robots into jobs in fast food and other industries will lead to at least short-term job losses. And that retraining and reskilling programs will be essential to help people take up higher value jobs.