Back in July, Chipotle revealed the “Autocado”—an AI-guided avocado-pitting robot prototype meant to help handle America’s insatiable guacamole habit while simultaneously reducing food waste. Today, the fast casual chain announced its next automated endeavor—a prep station capable of assembling entrees on its own.
According to the company’s official reveal this morning, its newest robotic prototype—a collaboration with the food service automation startup, Hyphen—creates virtually any combination of available base ingredients for Chipotle’s burrito bowls and salads underneath human employees’ workspace. Meanwhile, staff are reportedly allowed to focus on making other, presumably more structurally complex and involved dishes such as burritos, quesadillas, tacos, and kid’s meals. Watch the robot prototype plop food into little piles in the bowl under the workspace here:
As orders arrive via Chipotle’s website, app, or another third-party service like UberEats, burrito bowls and salads are automatically routed within the makeline, where an assembly system passes dishes beneath the various ingredient containers. Precise portions are then doled out accordingly, after which the customer’s order surfaces via a small elevator system on the machine’s left side. Chipotle employees can then add any additional chips, salsas, and guacamole, as well as an entree lid before sending off the orders for delivery.
[Related: What robots can and can’t do for a restaurant.]
Chipotle estimates around 65 percent of all its digital orders are salads and burrito bowls, so their so-called “cobot” (“collaborative” plus “robot”) could hypothetically handle a huge portion of existing kitchen prep. The automated process may also potentially offer more accurate orders, the company states.
Advocates frequently voice concern about automation and its effect on human jobs. And Chipotle isn’t the only chain in question—companies like Wendy’s and Panera continue to experiment with their own automation plans. Curt Garner, Chipotle’s Chief Customer and Technology Officer described the company’s long-term goal of having the automated digital makeline “be the centerpiece of all our restaurants’ digital kitchens.”
For now, however, the new burrito bowl bot can only be found at the Chipotle Cultivate Center in Irvine, California—presumably alongside the Autocado.