The Weird Reason Hyundai And KFC Korea Have Started Working Together

KFC has always been an innovator. In the 1950s, the Colonel himself peddled newfangled pressure cookers along with his secret recipe to franchisees. Pressure frying was the technological breakthrough that enabled fried chicken to become fast food (via Slate). Today, KFC is taking another bold step in its kitchens. According to My Smart Choice, KFC Korea is partnering with Hyundai Robotics on a project to create robot cooks for the chain's restaurants.

Neither KFC nor Hyundai are saying much about their partnership or what the future of KFC's Korean kitchens might look like, but we already have an idea, thanks to Flippy, the fast food robot created by Miso Robotics. Flippy has already been installed for a test run in a Chicago White Castle, flipping burgers and working the deep fryers, according to Hackaday. The robotic arm has also seen action at Dodger Stadium and CaliBurger locations, and Miso just started offering it to interested restaurant owners for $30,000 (via Business Insider). "We've seen demand through the roof from operators, especially in light of COVID-19," said Miso Robotics' CEO Mike Bell. In the long run, Los Angeles Times says Flippy costs less than a minimum-wage employee and cooks everything from hamburgers to fried foods with uncanny consistency.

Robot cooks don't get tired or call in sick

In addition to consistency, robot cooks have several advantages over their human counterparts in the eyes of corporations, as My Smart Choice pointed out. Robots don't get tired or sick, and they don't have to follow social distancing guidelines. Another advantage robots have over humans, at least from the marketing department's point of view: Robots won't post viral behind-the-scenes videos from the kitchen that can give fast food companies negative publicity.

What about the loss of jobs for actual humans — the high school students, single parents, and others who work at fast food restaurants to support their families? Concerns that robots will take jobs away might be misplaced. When the dishwasher was invented in the 1920s, people were concerned that particular job title for humans in restaurant kitchens would be wiped out. As it turned out, people were still needed to load and unload the new machines (via Los Angeles Times). The most high profile job of all in the restaurant industry — the chef who creates a restaurant's menu — also seems totally safe for now. As Miso Robotics' CEO told the Los Angeles Times, "You don't ask Caltech roboticists to make an amazing chicken sandwich."