- Chipotle announced Thursday that Hyphen, a foodservice platform focused on automating kitchen operations, and Meati Foods, a mushroom-based food company, are part of the first cohort of Chipotle’s Cultivate Next venture fund. The amount of funding provided to each company was not disclosed.
- Chipotle uses its $50 million venture fund, which launched in April, to invest in early-stage companies that strategically align with its mission and could help accelerate its growth plans, the company said in a statement.
- Hyphen’s makeline can assemble meals in seconds with increased order accuracy, the company claims, which aligns with Chipotle’s interest in automation technology.
Chipotle said it is committed to finding ways to ease obstacles for its employees, especially as it plans to grow to 7,000 restaurants in North America. Hyphen’s makeline technology, which can be used in manual or automation mode, can be used to fulfill orders from digital channels — supporting Chipotle’s online sales growth.
The chain’s digital sales grew nearly 25% to $3.4 billion last year. Technology that can make digital order fulfillment easier, especially in Chipotle’s smaller digital-focused locations, could help the company further boost sales and efficiency. Hyphen’s KitchenOS system allows chefs to create recipes and push new menus to restaurants through over-the-air updates. It makeline can produce over 350 meals an hour and eliminate order defects like missing ingredients and cross-contamination, according to a press release. Hyphen claims its technology has a 99.9% accuracy rate.
“Chipotle’s investment in Hyphen will accelerate our hiring plans; allowing us to invest more heavily in R&D, all while providing the necessary infrastructure to scale sustainably,” Stephen Klein, cofounder and CEO of Hyphen, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to work with Chipotle to find more innovative solutions by removing repetitive tasks from the employee experience so they can focus on creating delicious dishes and providing outstanding hospitality.”
Hyphen previously raised $24 million in Series A funding in February, led by Tiger Global. The addition of Chipotle’s funding will help it grow while other restaurant-related tech companies prepare for a reduction in available capital due to rising interest rates. Hyphen already works with restaurant chains, virtual brands and co-packers, according to the press release.