Chipotle's experimental tortilla robots know to add a little variety
Chippy could automate some cooking for Mexican cuisine.
Kitchen robots are making more than just sliders and pizzas. Chipotle is testing Chippy, a version of Miso Robotics' arm-based automaton (already in use at White Castle) customized to make tortilla chips. The bot not only knows how to replicate Chipotle's recipe, but is smart enough to add "subtle variations" to keep things interesting — you might get a little more lime or salt.
The test is currently limited a Chipotle "innovation hub" in Irvine, California. However, the Mexican-themed restaurant chain also plans to use Chippy in a southern California restaurant later this year. Feedback from customers and workers will help shape any potential national rollout.
People will still be involved in making most of your burrito or taco, Chipotle said. Like an earlier rollout of the Pepper chat bot, Chippy will be there to "improve the human experience" rather than replace back-of-house cooks. You might get your meals sooner and with more consistent quality, particularly during busy hours.
It's easy to be skeptical, though. Zume transitioned from pizza-making robots after technical hurdles made them impractical, while McDonalds' AI-powered drive-thrus aren't yet accurate enough to be reliable. There's also the perpetual concern that companies will eventually automate workers out of their jobs. For now, though, Chipotle appears focused on making life easier for kitchen staff rather than replacing them with machines.