'Autocado' helps Chipotle cut avoacdos for guacamole.
Robots are no longer just for making tortilla chips at Chipotle Mexican Grill.
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, is now testing a robotic avocado processing prototype. Known as “Autocado” and developed in collaboration with automated food solutions provider Vebu, the robot cuts, cores and peels avocados before they are hand mashed to create the restaurant's signature guacamole.
The prototype is currently being tested at the Chipotle Cultivate Center, the company’s innovation lab in Irvine, Calif. Chipotle terms Autocado as a “cobot,” or a trainable robot designed to work alongside humans,
How Autocado works
An associate loads Autocado with a full case of ripe avocados and selects the size setting. Autocado can hold up to 25 pounds of avocados at once.
One at a time, avocados are vertically oriented, then transferred to the processing device.
The avocados are sliced in half. Their cores and skin are automatically removed, and the waste is discarded.
The fruit is collected in a stainless-steel bowl in the bottom of the device.
An associate removes the bowl of avocado fruit and moves it to the counter where they add additional ingredients and hand mash the avocados to make guacamole.
Managers from Chipotle's restaurants worked with Vebu to analyze the company's preparation process and identify tasks that are time-consuming and less popular with associates. Chipotle currently has employees dedicated to cutting, coring, and scooping avocados. On average, it takes approximately 50 minutes to make a batch of guacamole.
Vebu aims to improve the device's processing speeds, which it says could ultimately reduce guacamole prep time by 50%. This would allow Chipotle employees to focus more time and effort on customer service-related activities.
In support of Chipotle's sustainability initiatives and waste reduction efforts, Autocado is also intended to increase avocado fruit yield through precision processing. Chipotle hopes future iterations of Autocado will use machine learning (ML) and sensor fusion to evaluate the quality of the avocados and quantify waste reduction, as well as the efficiency of the cutting, coring, and peeling processes.
"We are committed to exploring collaborative robotics to drive efficiencies and ease pain points for our employees," said Curt Garner, chief customer and technology officer at Chipotle. "The intensive labor of cutting, coring, and scooping avocados could be relieved with Autocado, but we still maintain the essential culinary experience of hand mashing and hand preparing the guacamole to our exacting standards."
"Our purpose as a robotic company is to leverage automation technology to give workers more flexibility in their day-to-day work," said Buck Jordan, CEO of Vebu. "Autocado has the potential to work alongside Chipotle crew members to create the same, delicious guacamole that Chipotle fans love but more efficiently than ever before."