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Chipotle introduces robot to streamline difficult employee tasks, sparking debate

Chipotle embraces automation by introducing a robot for avocado prep, streamlining operations and addressing employee concerns.

Chipotle introduces robot to streamline difficult employee tasks, sparking debate
Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Joe Raedle

Robots have been revolutionizing various industries around the world. Now, Chipotle Mexican Grill is exploring their potential to simplify tasks for its workers. As part of their innovative approach, the fast food chain is testing a cutting-edge robot that could alleviate the burden of avocado slicing and pitting. This technological advancement aims to significantly reduce the time spent on guacamole preparation, allowing employees to focus on other essential aspects of their work. While the "Autocado" robot efficiently handles avocado processing, Chipotle workers will still play a crucial role in adding their personal touch to the guacamole by hand-mashing the avocado and incorporating additional ingredients. It is a blend of human expertise and automated assistance, ensuring a seamless and time-saving process in the kitchen.

A robot prepares a pizza at Paris's first robotic pizzeria. Source: Getty Images | Sam Tarling
A robot prepares a pizza at Paris's first robotic pizzeria. Source: Getty Images | Sam Tarling

 

In a recent news release, Curt Garner, Chief Customer and Technology Officer at Chipotle, said, "We are committed to exploring collaborative robotics to drive efficiencies and ease pain points for our employees." As part of their ongoing efforts to prioritize employee well-being, Chipotle has recently introduced a range of initiatives that aim to enhance the lives of their workforce. The "Autocado" stands out among these initiatives as a cutting-edge solution designed to alleviate some of the challenges employees face. 

By implementing innovative technologies like the "Autocado," Chipotle is committed to making their employees' lives easier, streamlining tasks and improving overall work efficiency. Chipotle's guacamole-making process currently requires approximately 50 minutes per batch. However, the recently unveiled Autocado has the potential to reduce the preparation time by half. While speaking to CNBC, Garner said that avocado preparation was a tedious process disliked by most employees.

An artificial intelligence serving robot delivers meal during a demonstration at a restaurant. Source: Getty Images | Chung Sung-Jun
An artificial intelligence serving robot delivers meals during a demonstration at a restaurant. Source: Getty Images | Chung Sung-Jun

 

Chipotle's robot could address labor shortages in the restaurant industry but some have argued that it could be a step to replace employees. McDonald's and Taco Bell are also testing AI-powered voice bots. The 2023 State of the Restaurant Industry Report predicts increased tech and automation adoption to alleviate labor shortages. Chipotle tested a chip-making robot called Chippy last year. Developed in collaboration with Miso Robotics, the same company responsible for burger-flipping and wing-frying robots used by White Castle and Buffalo Wild Wings, Chippy was purposely designed to produce imperfect tortilla chips. Moreover, Chipotle collaborated with Vebu Labs, a startup specializing in food industry robotics, to create the Autocado robot. The robot is currently undergoing testing in Chipotle's test kitchen in Irvine, California. It will eventually be deployed in their restaurants. As part of Chipotle's Cultivate Next venture, which involves a $50 million investment, they also support Vebu. As mentioned in their press release, Chipotle intends to explore future investments in farming, supply chain innovations, and advanced robotics.

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