Chipotle Mexican Grill is expanding its team of robot chefs with the goal of increasing the efficiency of salad and burrito bowl production. The fast-casual restaurant chain (ticker: CMG) recently announced that it is testing a new automatic production line specifically for digital orders of burrito bowls and salads.
With the new system, online orders placed in advance will be directed to the automated production line. This line features a dispenser that provides an empty plate, positioning itself underneath dispensers for the ingredients chosen by the customer. Each ingredient is then portioned automatically into the bowl. Once complete, the bowl or salad seamlessly moves to the other end of the line for pick up.
In the meantime, restaurant employees can simultaneously prepare other menu items such as burritos, tacos, quesadillas, and kids' meals on the same countertop used for assembling the bowls.
Chipotle estimates that around 65% of all digital orders consist of bowls or salads. By utilizing this new "cobotic" (collaborative robot) system, employees will have more time to deliver exceptional hospitality to customers and accommodate an increased number of digital orders during peak periods. In the previous quarter, digital sales accounted for 38% of Chipotle's total sales.
Hyphen, a food-service platform focused on automating restaurant processes, is partnering with Chipotle to create this innovative production line. Chipotle's ultimate goal is to have automated digital makelines as the centerpiece of all its restaurants' digital kitchens, according to a company press release.
This latest development follows Chipotle's earlier efforts in automating guacamole production with a robot named Autocado. Additionally, the company is piloting a robotic tortilla-chip maker called Chippy, which not only fries chips but also seasons them with salt and lime.
As of premarket trading on Tuesday, Chipotle stock has experienced a 1.4% decline to $1,842. However, shares have gained an impressive 35% year to date.