Chipotle aims to slash employee time spent preparing their signature guacamole with a new robotic prototype.
Dubbed the “Autocado” the machine cuts, cores and peels avocados before they are hand mashed and additional ingredients added.
How it works: An employee loads Autocado with up to 25 pounds of avocados. One at a time, the fruit is vertically oriented and then transferred to the processing device. Avocados are thinly sliced in half, their cores and skins removed and waste discarded before being collected in a stainless-steel bowl at the bottom of the device.
Chipotle partnered with robotics development company Vebu to create the prototype. Vebu worked closely with restaurant managers to identify tasks that are time-consuming and less favorable among crew members. Currently, Chipotle has staff dedicated to cutting, coring and scooping.
According to the company, the process on average takes approximately 50 minutes to make one full batch. The Vebu team aims to improve this by cutting prep time in half.
“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.
“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.”
Goals for future iterations of the Autocado include using machine learning and sensor fusion to evaluate the quality of the avocado and reduce waste.
Automation integration saga
Chipotle is no stranger to trying out new automation tactics. The chain’s investment in Vebu is part of its Cultivate Next program, its $50-million venture fund intended for innovation.
Through this program, Chipotle previously invested in Hyphen, a food service platform designed to automate kitchen operations. Hyphen’s first product, The Makeline, is being tested as a way to automate meal production for all digital orders under the same counter, while allowing staff to assemble in-house orders from the top of the counter.
Chipotle is also trying out Chippy, an autonomous kitchen assistant that makes tortilla chips in a Fountain Valley, CA restaurant.
Both Autocado and The Makeline are present at the Chipotle Cultivate Center in Irvine, CA.