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Chipotle automates making burrito bowls and salads in AI pilot

Chipotle automated makeline
A Chipotle associate rolls a burrito while the automated makeline assembles a bowl.

Chipotle Mexican Grill continues testing artificial intelligence (AI) in its kitchen operations.

The fast-casual restaurant chain, which has been piloting a customized autonomous kitchen assistant (nicknamed “Chippy")  to cook and season tortilla chips since March 2022 and testing a robotic avocado processing prototype known as “Autocado” since July 2023, is now applying automation to its makeline for digital orders.

Chipotle is testing an artificial intelligence (AI)-based automated digital makeline from foodservice platform Hyphen. Bowls and salads are created by the automated system that moves the entrées through the bottom makeline, where ingredients for the order are dispensed automatically. In tandem, a Chipotle associate can leverage the top makeline to create burritos, tacos, quesadillas, and kid's meals for the same digital order.

Chipotle also made an unspecified investment in Hyphen as part of Cultivate Next, the company's $50 million venture fund

How it works

If a digital order placed via the Chipotle app or website, or third-party platform, includes a bowl or salad, those entrées are routed to the automated Hyphen system. The bowl travels along the bottom makeline and positions itself under the specified ingredient container.

Intelligent dispensers then dynamically portion each ingredient into the bowl. If the order includes burritos, tacos, quesadillas, or kid's meals, a human associate uses the top of the same makeline to create those entrées.

Once completed, the bowl or salad is then raised from the bottom makeline and revealed at the end of the makeline through an opening in the countertop. An associate then places a lid on the entrée and adds any final items such as chips, side salsas, or guacamole.

Completed orders are placed in their designated pick-up area: in-store pickup shelves, walk-up window, or Chipotlane digital order drive-thru/walk-up window.

According to Chipotle, approximately 65% of all its digital orders are bowls or salads, so its sees the potential to free up more time for employees to service the front makeline and customers, while simultaneously increasing capacity for digital orders during peak periods. Chipotle also hopes the new digital makeline will help enhance digital order accuracy.

"Chipotle's new digital makeline built by Hyphen embodies our commitment to leveraging robotics to unlock the human potential of our workforce, ensuring an elevated dining experience for our guests," said Curt Garner, chief customer and technology officer., Chipotle Mexican Grill "Our goal is to have the automated digital makeline be the centerpiece of all our restaurants' digital kitchens." 

As of June 30, 2023, Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. had over 3,250 restaurants in the U.S., Canada, U.K., France and Germany; and is the only restaurant company of its size that owns and operates all its restaurants in North America and Europe.


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