We have seen robots delivering food, assembling cars parts, painting, and even dancing to BTS songs. Now, with Chipotle testing a robot that makes tortilla chips, robotics solutions will soon be deployed to service restaurant chains and solve ongoing labor challenges. Chipotle is using a version of Miso Robotics‘ arm-based automaton tailored to create tortilla chips, dubbed Chippy. Chippy can deliver you tortilla chips with a dash of additional guacamole, too, because the bot not only understands how to recreate Chipotle’s recipe but also how to make “subtle changes.”
Chippy is now being tested at Chipotle’s Cultivate Center, an innovation hub in Irvine, California, and will be available later this year at a Southern California location. Following that, the company will rely on staff and customer input to design a more comprehensive rollout strategy.
For the time being, Chippy uses artificial intelligence to duplicate Chipotle’s identical formula for cooking chips, which includes corn masa flour, water, and sunflower oil, as well as a sprinkle of salt and a spritz of lime juice, all without compromising on the quality and taste.
Chipotle isn’t the first company to incorporate artificial intelligence in its operations. It also features a concierge chatbot, Pepper, who guarantees that customers have an amazing experience on the Chipotle app and Chipotle.com.
This is also not the first time we turned to robots to address labor shortage woes at restaurants. For instance, last month, White Castle announced the deployment of Flippy 2, a burger-flipping robot made by Miso Robotics for more than 100 of its locations. Miso’s Flippy Wings is also being tested at Buffalo Wild Wings, which is owned by Inspire Brands. Fast-food restaurants like Sonic, McDonald’s, and Checkers have used drive-thrus with robots. During the pandemic, a Latin American restaurant in Dallas used a trio of cyborgs to work as waiters, while robots also cooked and served food to reporters during the Beijing Winter Olympics. In 2019, startup Blendid had launched a smoothie-making robot Chef B on the University of San Francisco’s campus to make The Classic, Strawberries and Cream and The Foggy Don smoothies.
According to Miso Robotics CEO Michael Bell, the labor issue isn’t going away anytime soon, and there’s a huge demand for restaurants to automate operations. Many restaurant owners anticipate recruiting workers to be challenging until at least 2023, according to a February National Restaurant Association report, despite the industry’s workforce growing by an estimated 400,000 jobs.
Apart from addressing the labor shortage, another impetus for firms like Chipotle and others to adopt robotics is to save money. The unfortunate fact is that cutting costs will also ‘cost’ human workers who need to work. In other words, while businesses are aiming to minimize operational expenses, people are struggling to secure valuable employment in an ever-changing financial quicksand.