CaliBurger opens Florida debut location in Estero with its robot fry cook

Reporter: Morgan Rynor Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Flippy, the robot fry cook, performs its duties at CaliBurger at University Village Shops in Estero.

A burger franchise that began overseas has made its way to Southwest Florida for its first location in the state. With its recent debut comes a window into the future. A pivotal aspect of the CaliBurger business model is integrating forward-thinking technology into the restaurant.

Restaurant franchise CaliBurger made its Florida debut at University Village Shops in Estero recently, and “Flippy,” CaliBurger’s robot fry cook, is working alongside its human co-workers to get burgers onto trays for customers.

When a customer first walks into CaliBurger, it looks like any other brewery-burger joint. But Flippy adds the extra touch of something different.

“Oh, gosh no,” said Jeff Burns, Florida franchise co-owner. “I don’t think there’s anything similar to this in the country right now.”

And technology separate from Flippy plays an immediate role in the customer experience. Touch-screen boards run artificial intelligence and use facial recognition during the ordering process.

“You enter your credit card information one time. And for the rest of the time that you come here, this will introduce itself to you,” Burns said. “It will remember your name; it will remember your previous order; and you can just whip through like this, order and pick it up.”

John Miller owns all of Cali Group, the holding company for CaliBurger.

“My background is in technology,” Miller said. “I got into the restaurant business for fun.”

CaliBurger has a full, human staff ready to take customer’s orders, but Miller says technology is the future of the restaurant business.

“The restaurant industry has to have technology to survive and thrive,” Miller said. “You have big trends taking place like high turnover of labor creating high operating costs.”

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