Chipotle Testing A Robot To Speed Up Digital Orders For Bowls And Salads

We are entering a future where we will never be able to fully escape robots, and soon they are going to be making your Chipotle order too. RobotsĀ are already being tasked with delivery orders for fast food restaurants like Chick-Fil-A, but the actual making of the food has still mostly been left to humans. However, according to a press release sent to Tasting Table, that ends soon, as at least part of the preparation process at Chipotle is being outsourced to a new automated preparation system. Created in collaboration with the food service brand Hyphen, the "automated digital makeline," will be used to make burrito bowls and salads, while the preparation of standard burritos, tacos, and quesadillas will still be left to their human coworkers.

Like the line of ingredients your server normally picks from when constructing your Chipotle order, the new digital makeline operates on an assembly line system. Once orders are processed, bowls are passed under a series of dispensers, which dump a portion of each chosen ingredient into the bowl. The top of the makeline includes the same standard collection of salsa, beans, and cheese as a normal Chipotle prep area, so human workers can do their work simultaneously at the same station. The finished bowls are raised up to the end of the station, where they can be completed and boxed up by employees.

Chipotle's bowl robot will be used to free up time for human workers

According to Chipotle, about 65% of all digital orders are bowls and salads. The company claims that the new system's purpose is to give employees more freedom to work the front of the house and help customers while also allowing stores to turn out more orders during peak hours. "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," says Chipotle's chief customer and technology officer, Curt Garner. He also claims that the goal is for the new automated prep stations to be the "centerpiece," of every Chipotle location's digital kitchen.

Even before this announcement, Chipotle has been at the forefront of automating fast food and fast casual food preparation. It made headlines earlier this year when it rolled out Chipotle's new guacamole robot, another program meant to cut down on one of the most labor-intensive processes for employees, and last year it unveiled the Chipotle tortilla chip robot named "Chippy." With each of these innovations, Chipotle has emphasized that the goal is not to replace human workers, but to make their jobs easier. And while the long-term effects of these changes are never easy to predict, the chain has seen a large expansion of employees this year, which might assuage worker's concerns. Either way, it looks like a brave new world of fast food prep is ahead of us.