Flippy Gets a New Gig at White Castle

The fast food industry has long had a labor problem. It can hard to find restaurant workers, particularly for fast-food chains where the jobs can be long, hot, and greasy. Add in food safety preparation issues for handling the COVID-19 pandemic and the problem grows. One of the more thankless jobs is probably working the fryer. It’s boring, repetitive, and carries a high risk of burns from hot oils.

White Castle, with 365 restaurants in the U.S., is piloting a new solution at a store in Chicago. Coming to the rescue is Flippy, the robot-on-a-rail (ROAR), that will soon be working the fry station. Flippy has a long, articulated arm that glides along an overhead rail to work the fry station, including filling the basket, timing the oil, and removing the fries without burning anyone. Safer food prep can help employees focus more on the customer, and less on production.

Flippy is a product of Miso Robotics in Pasadena, Calif., and is billed as the world’s first autonomous robotic kitchen assistant that can learn from its surroundings. It can work a grill or fryer, cooks perfectly and consistently every time, collaborates with kitchen staff, and is OSHA safety-compliant. The robotic arm isn’t cheap though. Flippy costs between $60,000 – $100,000.

Hungry for fries?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: Who was worked at a fast-food restaurant? What was the experience like for them?
  2. Show video of Flippy at White Castle: https://youtu.be/5vjf13h2f6o
  3. View videos and more information at Miso Robotics: https://youtu.be/5vjf13h2f6o
  4. Discuss the buying process for organizations. Who would influence the decision-making?
  5. For Flippy the robot food-preparation product, have students work on the actions taken in each of the five steps.
    1. Problem recognition?
    2. Information search?
    3. Evaluative criteria?
    4. Purchase decision?
    5. Post-purchase behavior?
  6. What are key considerations in each step?
  7. Debrief the exercise.

Source:  AdWeek; Forbes; Tech Crunch; other news sources

 

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Farewell to Segway PT

No product lives forever. There are always changes, an evolution, or a passing of the torch as a product fades away. Every product eventually reaches the decline/harvest stage whereby the product is eliminated and resources are reallocated to new technologies.

Such is the case for the original Segway PT (personal transport), which was a pop culture icon, but never really made it to a strong commercial or consumer product. The Segway two-wheeled PT debuted in 2001 and it became a staple in security and law enforcement (remember the movie Paul Blatt: Mall Cop?), but never really caught on for personal use beyond tourists and sight-seeing. The vehicles looked simple, but tended to be hard to use as riders shifted balance. Indeed, in 2003, then President George W. Bush took a tumble off the vehicle while riding!

Segway has expanded its product line into other transportation vehicles including electric scooters. All-in-all, Segway sold 140,000 PTs since its launch. However, the vehicles were less than 1.5% of the company’s revenue last year. China-based Ninebot acquired Segway in 2015 and will halt production of the Segway PT this July 2020.

R.I.P. Segway PT. You were an icon.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the stages in the product life cycle. What are the marketing objectives in each stage?
  2. Divide students into teams. Have each team draw a product life cycle and place various products and services into each stage.
  3. Next, discuss the life cycle of the Segway PT.
  1. Show videos of Segway:

Unveiling of Segway: https://youtu.be/Tppv2NgZOQU

Paul Blart – Mall Cop: https://youtu.be/dfzmYp60I7w

  1. Show the Segway web site: https://www.segway.com/
  2. Next, have students brainstorm on how to reposition or revise products/services to that they can move into an earlier stage of the life cycle or be reinvented for a new life.

Source: Associated Press; CNN News; New York Times; other sources

 

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Wear Lululemon Gear While Working Out on Mirror

Acquisitions can be tricky. Companies need to assess what markets to enter, and which products and services are needed for those markets. While it is common for food and beverage companies to use acquisitions to gain market share (consider Pepsi’s recent purchase of Rock Star beverages), it can be a tad trickier when combining other companies. A key consideration is that companies find synergies that can be capitalized on when combining organizations. Recently, Lululemon may have found a good acquisition as it expands beyond athletic apparel to acquire fitness equipment manufacturer Mirror.

Mirror is a high-tech, interactive mirror that streams workout classes, offers live classes and on-demand classes, plus more intensive one-on-one personal training session. Mirror launched in 2018 (and received an investment from Lululemon in 2019). The Mirror equipment is a low-profile mirror – yes, a mirror – priced at $1,495 purchase plus a $42 monthly membership fee. Personalized training is $40 per session. Lululemon has a strong brand and loyal customer following. In addition to its trendy athletic gear, it offers fitness classes in stores and online.

The acquisition is happening at a time when Americans have been impacted by Covid-19 and are working out at home instead of going to the gym. Even with new safety measures, many people are opting out of gym memberships in favor of home workouts.

Shall we work out inside today?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the four key marketing strategies: product development, market development, market penetration, and diversification.
  2. Discuss acquisitions as a marketing strategy. When is this effective? When is it not effective?
  3. Show Lulemon’s web site: https://shop.lululemon.com/
  4. Show Mirror’s web site: https://www.mirror.co/
  5. How do these two companies complement each other?
  6. Divide students into teams. Have each team develop a promotional plan that the companies can use to promote their union.

Source: Associated Press; CNN News; New York Times; other sources

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