Quick-service restaurants are facing record labor shortages, cost and hygiene concerns, and competitive pressures to improve the customer experience. Many are looking to emerging automation to meet the demand for speed and efficiency. Miso Robotics Inc. today announced a partnership with manufacturer Lancer Worldwide to build an intelligent beverage dispenser for future commercial kitchens.
While 60% to 70% of sales at certain quick-service restaurants (QSRs) came from drive-thru lanes before the COVID-19 pandemic, some chains reportedly experienced a jump to as high as 90%. However, volume increases and staff decreases have slowed total average drive-thru times by 29.8 seconds last year, noted Miso.
Miso Robotics has offered its Flippy frying and food-preparation robot and the CookRight vision-based monitoring system through software-as-a-service (SaaS) and robotics-as-a-service (RaaS) models. The Pasadena, Calif.-based company said it has seen how other “back-of-house” tasks can benefit from artificial intelligence and robotics.
Miso and San Antonio, Texas-based Lancer Worldwide said they saw a need for beverage automation to improve efficiency and the ability to react to unpredictable order volumes.
“Lancer has consistently supplied the market with dependable products for more than 50 years, and there was no question when it came time to decide who to partner with to create an automated beverage dispenser,” stated Jake Brewer, chief strategy officer at Miso Robotics. “Order fulfillment is a major factor for customer satisfaction, and operators can’t afford to have a beverage left behind when a delivery driver or customer visits.”
The company, which was founded in 2016, also today announced the opening of its Series D fundraising round, which began with a market valuation of $350 million—a $270 million increase since its $80 million Series C open.
Brewer answered the following questions from Robotics 24/7 about the food and beverage industry, adding automation, and Miso's vision for the future.
Automation in the commercial kitchen
QSRs have been on a roller coaster with the pandemic and its aftermath in the U.S.—do you anticipate staffing shortages to continue?
Brewer: Even though we’re starting to see some early signs of recovery, the need to optimize labor operations, the shift in customer preferences in favor of low-touch food and drink options, and the disruption of our traditional foot-traffic model are all challenges that aren’t going away. They were there before, and operators see the imperative need to tap into technology that can help them be successful as doors reopen widely.
Miso Robotics’ “Intelligent Automation” approach can address the needs of operators and help restaurants succeed in the new landscape.
How has the response been so far to Miso's CookRight system, unveiled last month?
Brewer: The response has been great! We are in talks with several QSRs and chains. Unfortunately, I can’t disclose specific names at this time. What I can tell you is that if the level of excitement and interest we have already seen is any indication, CookRight will become a part of some very recognizable restaurant kitchens very soon.
How does Lancer's automated beverage dispenser save effort and materials versus existing beverage dispensers?
Brewer: The automated beverage dispenser will bring enhanced functionality to commercial kitchens, allowing them to efficiently fulfill customer orders with increased speed, accuracy, and precision; streamline operations; cut costs and, ultimately, deliver a better customer experience.
Will Miso's existing systems communicate and synchronize with Lancer's automated dispenser and point-of-sale (POS) systems?
Brewer: Miso and Lancer’s automated beverage dispenser will be integrated into a restaurant’s POS system and will come equipped with a guided workflow for employees to ensure that all orders are completed by the time customers and delivery drivers come to pick them up.
So when an order comes in, the connected approach will allow the dispenser to “know” what type of beverage it needs to pour and will automatically issue the appropriately sized cup, pour ice and soda, and seal the drink. The machine will then move on to the next order, moving beverages to the front so a staff member can quickly grab it and hand it over to the customer.
Miso, Lancer expect rapid development
When do you expect the joint offering to be available?
Brewer: Our up-and-coming model is advancing quickly, and our partnership with Lancer will allow us to bring our Intelligent Automation to the beverage market very soon.
We are currently in the Alpha phase of our prototype development process and expect to be able to show off the capabilities of the machine in the coming months. Stay tuned – we expect to see this advance very quickly!
Will the automated beverage dispenser also be offered through a RaaS model?
Brewer: The automated beverage dispenser will be a product sold by Lancer – powered with Miso’s Intelligent Automation technology. The final specifics on pay structure and hardware access are still being finalized; more to come there.
Miso Robotics partners and investors
Is Miso's partnership with Lancer an example of movement toward more fully automated restaurants?
Brewer: Our automated beverage dispenser, as with most automation intelligence and technology, is intended to supplement and support existing systems and staff in order to streamline operations, provide a better customer experience, and establish an overall improvement to the business.
Moving forward, Intelligent Automation in commercial kitchens will increasingly unlock new ways to operate more efficiently and help restaurants and kitchens to enhance safety and cleanliness protocols, meet faster demands, and increase volume of orders especially with low-touch options.
The fully automated kitchen is years away, but we see operators embracing the power of automation more and more each day, and based on early conversations with QSRs, we believe this news is an important step in paving the way for more back-of-house automation in the future.
Is Miso Robotics looking for other partners to increase QSR automation?
Brewer: Our partnership with Lancer is the result of a mutual understanding of the pain points troubling the QSR industry. By bringing together their manufacturing prowess with our Intelligent Automation solutions, we were able to create something that will deliver a better customer experience and make the lives of those working in commercial kitchens better.
Our goal has always been to partner with and support the QSR industry – offering our technology to benefit the operators and kitchen staff. We are definitely open to partnering with other global brands to accelerate this movement and our new focus on a “powered by Miso” strategy.
Does Miso Robotics have a time frame for its Series D round?
Brewer: Our Series D round raise kicked off just a few weeks ago and is already seeing great momentum! Our last Series C round size was $30 million, and our Series D round is now targeting an additional $40 million.
We are looking forward to having more individual investors get involved in this exciting opportunity so we can bring our transformative technology to more and more restaurants around the world. It’s still very early days, and we’ve only really just announced the open with this news, but we are confident that based on the success of our Series C, investors will quickly pour in.
About the Author
Eugene Demaitre is editorial director of Robotics 24/7. Prior to joining Peerless Media, he was a senior editor at Robotics Business Review and The Robot Report. Demaitre has also worked for BNA (now part of Bloomberg), Computerworld, and TechTarget. He has participated in numerous robotics-related webinars, podcasts, and events worldwide.
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