The robot, known as Autocado, made in collaboration with California-based robotics startup Vebu Labs, can allegedly cut in half the almost 50-minute preparation time to make a full batch of Chipotle's guacamole.
The announcement regarding Autocado comes as the company and its rivals venture into the world of robotics and other types of automation to lower costs as the restaurant industry struggles with a shrinking labor pool and soaring wages.
Just recently, salads restaurant chain Sweetgreen opened a branch in Naperville, Illinois, where the food is prepared on an automated assembly line. (Related: First fully automated McDonald’s outlet creeps out customers.)
Coffee chain Starbucks is already investing a lot of money on coffee-making equipment so that it can trim down its employment of baristas.
Meanwhile, other fast food chains like Carl's Jr. are already employing artificial intelligence-based software for drive-thru orders.
To prepare avocados utilizing the Autocado, Chipotle workers rack up the device with up to 25 pounds worth of avocados.
The Autocado then vertically aligns the avocados, slices them in half and removes their cores and skin. A bowl at the bottom of the machine gathers the fruit, which the staff can then hand mash and mix with the rest of the ingredients required to make guacamole.
"There's no plan to test automated guac made in our restaurant," Curt Garner, Chipotle's chief technology officer, indicating that the company still wants its workforce involved in the production of guacamole. The company further noted that its employees can use the time saved by the Autocado to do other necessary works in the kitchen.
But the company didn't mention if it will still need the same number of employees to do the necessary works if the test of the Autocado prototype is successful. Garner said he hopes the company will install more Autocados in other restaurants by the latter half of the year.
According to Garner, preparing avocados for guacamole usually ranks as one of the least favorite tasks of employees and it is also one of the most dangerous responsibilities in Chipotle kitchens, occasionally resulting in knife injuries. In addition to saving time and labor costs, the robot could also cut food waste. Chipotle noted that if the chain employs the Autocado in its over 3,200 locations, it could help conserve millions of dollars on avocados yearly.
Chipotle has also been testing out automation for other kitchen duties. Since September 2022. one of the company's California locations has been utilizing Chippy, an autonomous tortilla chip maker made by Miso Robotics, a start-up co-founded by Vebu's CEO.
The automated kitchen assistant uses culinary traditions with artificial intelligence to create tortilla chips, in a Fountain Valley, California, restaurant.
To make sure Chippy produces the perfect tortilla chips, Miso Robotics trained it with Chipotle's recipe such as corn masa flour, water and sunflower oil, a sprinkle of salt and a squeeze of fresh lime juice after cooking.
"We've got a few more months of that restaurant test before we'll officially make the decision whether there’s any more refactoring that needs to be done or whether [Chippy is] ready to go into a different restaurant," Garner announced.
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This video is from the High Impact Flix and More channel on Brighteon.com.