- Chipotle has teamed with Miso Robotics to create Chippy, an autonomous kitchen assistant that cooks and seasons tortilla chips, the chain announced Wednesday. Chippy is being tested at the Chipotle Cultivate Center in Irvine, California, and will be deployed at a Chipotle restaurant in Southern California later this year.
- The technology uses artificial intelligence to produce the tortilla chips with the exact same recipe employees use, including "subtle variations in flavor" customers expect, Nevielle Panthaky, Chipotle's VP of culinary, said in a statement.
- This isn't the chain's first experiment with AI — Chipotle uses the technology to power its concierge chat bot, Pepper, which engages with diners on the chain's app and website.
The innovation builds on Chipotle's previous investments in improving fulfillment speed, including its Chipotlane drive-thrus — which have expanded to include a digital-only store — and its stake in self-driving delivery company Nuro. Chipotle didn't disclose how expensive Chippy is, but Miso Robotics' robots reportedly cost up to $3,000 monthly.
A partnership with Miso Robotics could help bolster Chipotle's status as a first-mover in the restaurant technology space. The cooking robots market is predicted to grow 16% annually through 2028 and be worth $322 million that same year, according to Research Nester. The fast food segment, specifically, is estimated to expand at 17.4% annually through 2028.
Chipotle will use its stage-gate process to evaluate Chippy's progress, gathering employee and diner feedback prior to developing a national expansion strategy for the technology. The burrito chain hopes Chippy will bolster restaurant efficiency and free up employees to work on other tasks, Chipotle CTO Curt Garner said in a statement.
"This partnership will allow us to move into new territory to help improve back-of-house functions and assist team members with their day-to-day responsibilities," Mike Bell, Miso Robotics CEO, said.
The Mexican chain joins a growing contingent of major restaurant chains deploying Miso Robotics' autonomous technology in the kitchen to improve speed of service and ease labor pressure.
White Castle, for example, partnered with Miso Robotics in 2020 to launch a fry cook robot that cooks the chain's signature burgers. The company announced last month it will deploy the second version of the robot, called Flippy 2, at more than 100 of its 350 restaurants. Flippy 2 produces the work of an entire fry station, but Miso Robotics clarified the technology won't replace jobs. Instead, the robot can create new jobs, like "chef techs" who manage the robot, while freeing up workers to focus on different tasks.
Buffalo Wild Wings is also piloting a product called Flippy Wings at select restaurants and Alliance Kitchen, the chain's ghost kitchen. The wing-focused robot speeds up food production by up to 20% — a major advantage as diner demand for fast and convenient off-premise solutions holds steady even as the pandemic ebbs.