March 23, 2022
While picking up ingredients and rolling burritos remains in the hands of Chipotle’s human staff for now, tortilla-making tasks in the line may soon be handled by robots.
Chipotle begins piloting an AI-based tortilla chip-making robot named Chippy, first in its Innovation Center and then in select locations, to determine the value of potential nationwide deployment , according to USA today. Chippy is able to automatically mix the ingredients for tortilla chips and fry them, replicating tasks usually performed by staff. The robot is a product of Miso Robotics, a startup that is also responsible for the Flippy 2 burger-making robot currently in the pilot phase at White Castle.
Although picking and packing robots have quickly become commonplace devices in the grocery world, food preparation automation measures in the quick service restaurant (QSR) space have progressed more slowly. . Still, a number of robotic food preparation solutions have been introduced to restaurant kitchens in recent years.
For example Creator, a restaurant known for its fully automated robot chef, reopened in the summer of 2021 with a new iteration of its technology that allows visitors to personalize their order through an app, The spoon reported.
Other food preparation robots also appear to be on the way. Startup Hyphen said it will roll out its conveyor belt robot for salad preparation, Makeline, in five markets over the next two years, according to Tech Crunch.
Restaurant robots have also appeared in front of the house.
Bear Robotics has deployed its Servi robot, which has so far deployed food to 28 million restaurant tables to date, according to The Robot Report.
Flippy is probably the most famous restaurant bot to date. Its first iteration, which was rolled out at regional fast-food chain Caliburger, sparked both excitement about the futuristic technology and fears it could lead to job loss.
Similar concerns arose elsewhere in the fast food world when McDonald’s announcement, in 2018, that it would extend its self-service touchscreen kiosks to all of its sites. Critics saw the move as a threat of automating cashier duties.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What roles do you see robots playing in restaurants over the next five years? What will this mean for how restaurants use human labor?
“Chefs will not be replaced; they will work alongside collaborative robots that perform menial tasks. This frees up employees’ time to focus on service excellence.”