The Future. Chipotle is testing an automated kitchen-line system developed by startup Hyphen to help speed up the creation of burrito bowls — another experiment in the food industry to see how robotics and AI can make fast food more efficient. The system is slated to join Chipotle’s 3,250 locations sometime in the next 12 to 18 months, which may become key to the chain’s ambition to eventually expand to 7,000 restaurants… many of which may focus only on digital orders.
Algorithmic assembly line
Chipotle wants to be on the cutting edge of burrito technology.
- The fast-casual chain is piloting The Makeline at its test lab in Newport Beach, CA, which can be used to make burrito bowls, grain bowls, and salads.
- It dynamically adjusts each ingredient’s portion based on the bowl size and the number of toppings requested (but never reduces the amount of protein).
- It can make up to 180 bowls per hour (six times more than a human) and dispense ingredients needed to be wrapped into a tortilla.
Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol says the intention isn’t to replace human workers but to take over digital orders — which now represent 38% of the company’s revenue. Employees will still be able to work on the line alongside The Makeline’s robotic arms.