Chipotle isn't done experimenting with robots that could make life easier for restaurant staff. The chain has teamed up with robotics company Vebu to test a prototype Autocado robot (yes, that's the name) that cuts, cores and peels avocados to be used in guacamole. Kitchen workers only have to fill the bot with up to 25lbs of ripe avocados and choose a size. After the processing is done, they collect the fruit in a bowl, add remaining ingredients and start mashing.
As Autocado improves, Chipotle expects to cut guacamole prep time in half — no mean feat when it usually takes 50 minutes to make a batch. That could ensure a steady supply of guac while eliminating some of the drudgery for employees. The restaurant also believes the robot could reduce food waste (and thus costs) through more efficient processing.
Autocado is currently limited to a testing center in Irvine, California. This is the start of a "long term partnership" with Vebu, Chipotle adds. The two haven't said what comes next, but the focus will be on collaborative robots that "drive efficiencies" and "ease pain points" for workers. Last year, Chipotle began testing Miso Robotics' Chippy robot to aid in making tortilla chips.
Chipotle is far from alone. McDonald's and other restaurants are trying AI, robots and other automated solutions to streamline their experiences. These moves theoretically help employees concentrate on serving customers and other tasks where humans are still preferable. Of course, there are also lingering concerns among critics that restaurants might use this to automate people out of jobs. They may choose to shrink headcounts and cut costs instead of easing the workload. That isn't guaranteed to happen with Autocado when humans are still necessary, but the long-term future isn't quite so clear.