Chipotle Mexican Grill isn’t done experimenting with different robotic and automated technology solutions that could make life easier for restaurant staff and solve ongoing labor challenges.
The fast-casual chain has teamed up with Vebu Labs, a California-based robotics startup, to develop a new avocado processing cobotic called Autocado that cuts, cores, and peels avocados before they are hand mashed to create the restaurant’s famous guacamole.
Kitchen workers only have to load Autocado with a full case of ripe avocados and select the size setting. The cobot can hold up to 25 lbs. of avocados at once. Then, the machine vertically orients the avocados and slices them in half. Their cores and skin are automatically removed, and the waste is discarded.
A stainless-steel bowl in the bottom of the device safely collects the fruit, which team members can then hand mash and mix with additional ingredients to make Chipotle’s signature guacamole.
Chipotle currently has individuals dedicated to cutting, coring, and scooping avocados. On average, it takes approximately 50 minutes to make a batch of guacamole. As Autocado improves, the restaurant company expects to cut guacamole prep time in half – allowing employees to focus on serving guests and providing great hospitality.
Autocado also aims to increase avocado fruit yield through more efficient processing, which could lead to millions of dollars in annual food cost savings if the cobot is successfully developed and deployed widely.
The prototype is currently being tested at the Chipotle Cultivate Center in Irvine, California. Chipotle and Vebu haven’t said what comes next, but the focus will be on exploring collaborative robotics to drive efficiencies and ease pain points for their employees.
The goal is for future iterations of Autocado to use machine learning and sensor fusion to evaluate the quality of the avocados and quantify waste reduction as well as the efficiency of the cutting, coring, and peeling processes.
In addition to Autocado, Chipotle is currently testing CHIPPY, an autonomous kitchen assistant that integrates culinary traditions with artificial intelligence to make tortilla chips, in a Fountain Valley, CA restaurant.