Restaurant Experience

24 Oct 2023

Chipotle launches "cobot" to test automated makeline

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Isabel Carter

Chipotle, the beloved fast-food chain famous for its fresh Mexican-inspired fare, has recently unveiled an exciting innovation that could change the game in food preparation. The company announced that it is testing a groundbreaking automated digital makeline at its Chipotle Cultivate Center in Irvine, California. This innovative system, described as a "cobot" due to its unique blend of automation and human interaction, is set to redefine the way we think about fast-food production

Designed in collaboration with the robotics company Hyphen, in which Chipotle invested last year, the cobotic digital makeline promises to revolutionize the way bowls and salads are prepared while enabling Chipotle's skilled team members to focus on crafting burritos, tacos, quesadillas, and kid's meals.

How Does the Cobot Work?

The new automated digital makeline uses intelligent automation to create bowls and salads. Here's how it works: as orders come in, entrées are moved through the bottom makeline, where ingredients are dispensed automatically. The true genius of this system lies in the intelligent dispensers, which dynamically portion each ingredient into the bowl. This precision ensures that every bowl and salad is assembled with the utmost accuracy and consistency.

But what sets this system apart is its ability to integrate with human input. If an order includes burritos, tacos, quesadillas, or kid's meals, a Chipotle team member takes the helm at the top of the same makeline, manually crafting these entrées to meet the unique preferences of each customer. This balance between automation and human touch promises a perfect blend of efficiency and customization.


Meeting Customer Demand

Approximately 65% of all Chipotle digital orders are for bowls or salads. The introduction of the cobotic digital makeline aims to streamline the production of these items, effectively freeing up Chipotle employees to concentrate on serving customers at the front makeline. This shift not only enhances efficiency during peak periods but also raises the potential for digital order accuracy, significantly improving the overall guest experience.


An Industry Game-Changer

Chipotle's investment in this technology marks a remarkable step forward for the fast-food industry. It demonstrates a commitment to leveraging technology to enhance service quality, accuracy, and efficiency while also ensuring a more streamlined and engaging customer experience. As the world of fast food becomes increasingly digitized and automated, this move may inspire other chains to explore similar innovations in food preparation.


The Future of Fast Food

As the pilot testing of Chipotle's cobotic digital makeline progresses, it's expected that the fast-food industry will be closely watching for its results. The potential for reducing wait times, enhancing order accuracy, and freeing up employees for customer interactions represents an enticing proposition for many in the business. This innovation may herald a new era where automation plays a pivotal role in food preparation, and the lessons learned from Chipotle's initiative could influence the future of fast food.

Chipotle's new automated digital makeline is an exciting development with numerous benefits for both customers and employees. It promises to deliver faster service, more accurate orders, and less time spent on food preparation. This technology could revolutionize the fast-food industry, and it will be intriguing to see how other chains respond to this innovative step toward an automated culinary future. Chipotle's commitment to reimagining the fast-food experience demonstrates that the future of dining is undergoing a significant transformation, one bowl and salad at a time.