- Chipotle is piloting several technologies designed to streamline operations and reduce friction for guests and employees, the company announced Tuesday.
- The technologies include a kitchen management system from PreciTaste and location-based technology through FlyBuy to enhance app functionality. The chain will also begin testing its Chippy pilot in-store at a Fountain Valley, California unit in October.
- These pilots build on the company’s ongoing deployments this year, which include a pilot of radio-frequency identification to improve tracing and inventory management in the chain’s food supply.
Adding technology to boost growth and productivity is one of Chipotle’s main strategies, CEO Brian Niccol said during the company’s Q2 2022 earnings call. The company is deploying technologies that can help support “strong execution of the basics,” he said.
The kitchen management system, which is being tested in eight Orange County, California, locations, uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to inform staff of ingredient levels in real time, telling workers how much prep is needed and when to start cooking. It also automates real-time production planning for each restaurant.
At 73 restaurants in Cleveland, Ohio, the company is piloting FlyBuy, a technology from Radius Networks that provides arrival and real-time data for customers using the Chipotle app. This technology provides order readiness messaging, incorrect pickup location detection and reminds users to scan their Rewards QR code at checkout, among other uses. So far, the test has improved in-store rewards engagement and order alert notifications and increased efficiency with earlier assignments for delivery drivers, the company said.
The company will use its stage-gate process to gather guest and crew feedback before deciding if it will Chippy nationwide. Its Chippy test, a partnership with Miso Robotics, automates the chip-making process.
Chipotle is deploying an update to its POS hardware, intended to increase accuracy and throughput, which it expects to complete by year’s end, Niccol said on the call. The company has added new customer-facing pin pads to offer contactless payment options, and a labor management tool to improve scheduling.
More technology and innovation is likely, especially after Chipotle created its $50 million Cultivate Next venture fund to support emerging technology aligned with the company’s mission. The first cohort of funds went to Hyphen, a foodservice platform that automates kitchen operations, and Meati Foods, a mushroom-based food company. As of July, the chain had received over 200 inquiries for investment, Niccol said.