Service at Chipotle Mexican Grill may soon look a lot more automated.
The brand announced today that they’ll be debuting Autocado, an avocado processing cobotic prototype that cuts, cores, and peels avocados before they are hand mashed and mixed with other ingredients to create the restaurant’s guacamole.
The prototype, which was developed in collaboration with food automation lab Vebu, is currently being tested at the Chipotle Cultivate Center in Irvine, California.
To use the Autocado, a team member loads the machine with a full case of ripe avocados, up to 25 pounds at once, and selects the size setting. The avocados are then vertically oriented and transferred to the processing device. From here, the avocados are sliced in half. Their cores and skin are automatically removed, and the waste is discarded. The remaining green fruit is collected in a stainless-steel bowl in the bottom of the device.
From there, human labor comes in. A team member will remove the bowl of avocado fruit and move it to the prep counter. Here, they add additional ingredients and hand mash the avocados to make Chipotle’s guacamole.
“Our purpose as a robotic company is to leverage automation technology to give workers more flexibility in their day-to-day work,” said Buck Jordan, CEO of Vebu. “Autocado has the potential to work alongside Chipotle crew members to create the same, delicious guacamole that Chipotle fans love but more efficiently than ever before.” Vebu worked with Certified Training Managers from Chipotle’s restaurants to analyze the company’s preparation process, identifying tasks that are time consuming and less favorable among crew members.
Currently, Chipotle employs team members dedicated to cutting, coring, and scooping avocados. On average, it takes approximately 50 minutes for these workers to make a batch of guacamole. As the Autocado’s processing speeds increase, it could potentially reduce guacamole prep time by 50%.
“We are committed to exploring collaborative robotics to drive efficiencies and ease pain points for our employees,” said Curt Garner, Chief Customer and Technology Officer at Chipotle. “The intensive labor of cutting, coring, and scooping avocados could be relieved with Autocado, but we still maintain the essential culinary experience of hand mashing and hand preparing the guacamole to our exacting standards.”
Autocado isn’t the only robot Chipotle is testing in California. In Fountain Valley, Chipotle is currently testing Chippy, an autonomous kitchen assistant that relies on artificial intelligence to make tortilla chips. Developed by Miso Robotics in 2022, Chippy is trained to replicate Chipotle’s exact tortilla chip recipe using corn masa flour, water and sunflower oil, cooking the chips and seasoning with a dusting of salt, and finishing with a hint of fresh lime juice. But don’t expect a purely robotic outcome.
“Everyone loves finding a chip with a little more salt or an extra hint of lime,” said Nevielle Panthaky, Vice President of Culinary, Chipotle in a news release. “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.”