Will a robot chip away at Chipotle’s labor issues?
While ingredient scooping and burrito rolling remain in the hands of human staff at Chipotle for now, tortilla chip-making duties at the chain may soon be managed by robots.
Chipotle is beginning to pilot an artificial intelligence-based tortilla chip-making robot named Chippy, first in its innovation hub and then in select locations, to determine the value of a potential nationwide rollout, according to USA Today. Chippy is capable of automatically mixing tortilla chip ingredients and frying them, replicating tasks usually done by staff. The robot is a product of Miso Robotics, a startup which is also responsible for the hamburger-making robot Flippy 2 currently being piloted at White Castle.
Though picking and packing robots have quickly become common fixtures in the grocery world, moves to automate food preparation in the quick service restaurant (QSR) space have proceeded more slowly. Still, a number of robotic food prep solutions have been introduced to restaurant kitchens over the past few years.
For instance Creator, a restaurant known for its fully automated robot chef, reopened in summer, 2021 with a new iteration of its technology that allows visitors to customize their order via app, The Spoon reported.
More food prep robots appear to be on the way, as well. Startup Hyphen said that it will be deploying its salad preparation conveyor belt robot, Makeline, to five markets within the next two years, according to TechCrunch.
Restaurant robots have also been appearing in the front of the house.
Bear Robotics has deployed its robot Servi, which has so far rolled out food to 28 million restaurant tables to date, according to The Robot Report.
Flippy is probably the most famous of the food service robots so far. Its first iteration, which was deployed in regional fast-food chain Caliburger, inspired both excitement over the futuristic technology and fears that it would result in the loss of jobs.
Similar concerns arose elsewhere in the fast food world when McDonald’s announced, in 2018, that it would be expanding its self-service touchscreen ordering kiosks to all of its locations. Critics saw the move as threatening to automate away cashier jobs.
- Chipotle is testing a robot named Chippy to make its tortilla chips as restaurants turn more to tech – USA Today
- One day soon a robot will make you a salad – TechCrunch
- Creator Re-Opens With a New Burger Making-Robot Customers Can Control – The Spoon
- Bear Robotics closes $81M Series B funding round – The Robot Report
- How long will it be before robots replace humans in restaurants? – RetailWire
- McDonald’s to add self-order kiosks to 1,000 stores each quarter – CNBC
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What roles do you see robots playing in restaurants over the next five years? What will this mean for how restaurants use human labor?