The food robotics market is getting hotter, as Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. yesterday announced that it is working with Miso Robotics Inc. to create Chippy, an automated tortilla maker. The companies said they have integrated culinary expertise with artificial intelligence and robotics to cook and season Chipotle's tortilla chips.
“We are always exploring opportunities to enhance our employee and guest experience,” stated Curt Garner, chief technology officer at Chipotle. Our goal is to drive efficiencies through collaborative robotics that will enable Chipotle’s crew members to focus on other tasks in the restaurant.”
Founded in 1993, Chipotle is a leading brand in fast-casual eateries. The Newport Beach, Calif.-based company had more than 2,950 restaurants in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., France, and Germany as of Dec. 31, 2021. It claimed that it is the only restaurant company of its size that owns and operates all of its own restaurants.
Chipotle has more than 100,000 employees and said it serves “responsibly sourced, classically cooked, real food with wholesome ingredients without artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.”
Miso adds Chippy to restaurant robot menu
Founded in 2016, Miso Robotics said its systems include machine learning, computer vision, and data analytics. They include the Flippy 2 frying robot, the CookRight grilling assistant, the Sippy automated beverage dispenser, and now Chippy. Miso recently opened a Series E funding round.
The Pasadena, Calif.-based company said its experience from brand partnerships is helping its products evolve to “drive consistency, increase productivity, reduce costs and improve the overall dining experience.”
The global market for commercial cooking robots could rise from $77.6 million in 2019 to $295.1 million by the end of 2028, experiencing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.28%, predicted ResearchNester. It noted that North America is the largest share, with $43.9 million in 2019 and an estimated $175.2 million by 2028 and a CAGR of 16.9%.
Chipotle uses AI to replicate recipe
Chipotle said its culinary team guided Miso in tailoring its technology. It trained Chippy with AI to replicate Chipotle’s exact recipe—using corn masa flour, water, and sunflower oil—to cook chips, season with a dusting of salt, and finish with a hint of fresh lime juice.
“Everyone loves finding a chip with a little more salt or an extra hint of lime,” said Nevielle Panthaky, vice president of culinary at Chipotle. “To ensure we didn’t lose the humanity behind our culinary experience, we trained Chippy extensively to ensure the output mirrored our current product, delivering some subtle variations in flavor that our guests expect.”
The Chipotle Cultivate Center in Irvine, Calif., is currently testing Chippy, which will be integrated into a Chipotle restaurant in Southern California later this year. The company is using a stage-gate process to listen, test, and learn from its crew and guest feedback before deciding on a national implementation strategy.
“When Chipotle challenged us to see if our technology could meet the brand’s high standards for culinary quality, we couldn’t wait to flex our engineering and design muscles,” said Mike Bell, CEO of Miso Robotics. “This partnership will allow us to move into new territory to help improve back-of-house functions and assist team members with their day-to-day responsibilities.”
Chipotle continues to invest in emerging technologies to support its growing digital business and reduce friction in its restaurants. The company's concierge chat bot, Pepper, uses AI to help customers on the Chipotle app and Chipotle.com. Customers can select from frequently asked questions or ask their own questions to get a response quickly.
The company said it will continue applying AI and robotics to improve Chipotle’s overall guest and employee experience.