The popular Mexican food chain continues to integrate technology into its eateries.
There’s a new ingredient involved in the making of Chipotle’s popular guacamole. Autocado, a collaborative avocado processing robot prototype, is being tested and developed by the popular chain in partnership with the custom restaurant automation solution company Vebu. With the rise of labor shortages in the restaurant industry, Vebu has worked with Chipotle to identify time-consuming and menial tasks in the food preparation process. While significantly reducing food preparation time and giving Chipotle workers a break, Autocado will reduce costs for the Mexican fast-food company. Chipotle has made clear that the new invention will not take away any jobs, but rather, will work with employees to hasten production.
As it works currently, the robotic prototype has the potential to slice guacamole preparation time in half, as it completely takes care of the cutting, peeling, and coring of avocados. Team members will still have to add seasonings and hand-mash the guacamole to create the smooth consistency that customers have come to expect at Chipotle.
Without the Autocado, guacamole production is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process, taking approximately 50 minutes in total, including the cutting, peeling, coring, and scooping of the avocados.
Curt Garner, Chief Customer and Technology Officer at Chipotle emphasizes the efficiency of the new machine and its consequential net positive for Chipotle team members. “The device was designed specifically for Chipotle with the goal of easing identified pain points for restaurant employees,” he said.
The Autocado can process up to 25 pounds of avocados at a time. After the machine slices the avocado in half, the cores and skin of the fruit are then removed, leaving the avocados in a bowl for a team member to then mix with the other ingredients, including salt, lime, and diced onion.
The innovative power of the Autocado reaches past time and energy savings for the employees. Adding to the already long list of sustainability practices of the restaurant chain, the robot prototype endeavors to increase avocado yield. The company already purchases and utilizes approximately 100 million pounds of avocados each year over its 3,200 restaurants in North America and Europe.
The Autocado prototype is by no means an island. It is part of a larger automation initiative, which currently includes Chippy, another kitchen robot that can make tortilla chips using artificial intelligence. Chipotle has also stated it is working on automated dishwashing robots, in addition to a kitchen management system that has the potential to decrease food waste and increase the usage of fresh ingredients utilizing a process called machine learning.
While still in the prototype phase of development, Vebu Labs is refining its Autocado machine, working on improving its avocado processing speed. The company is also looking at potentially developing the Avocado to have the ability to evaluate avocados for quality.
As part of its $50 million investment venture in Vebu titled Cultivate Next, Chipotle is pivoting to focus on early investments in companies aligned with its plans to grow and energy efficiency practices. The Mexican fast-food giant has plans to reach 7,000 restaurants across North America, and automated machines developed in cooperation with Vebu could help make this dream possible.