Chipotle Mexican Grill announced Autocado, an avocado processing cobotic prototype that cuts, cores, and peels avocados before they are hand mashed to create the restaurant’s guacamole. The prototype, developed in collaboration with Vebu, is currently being tested at the Chipotle Cultivate Center in Irvine, California.
How It Works
- A team member loads Autocado with a full case of ripe avocados and selects the size setting. Autocado can hold up to 25 lbs. of avocados at once.
- One at a time, avocados are vertically oriented, then transferred to the processing device.
- The avocados are sliced in half. Their cores and skin are automatically removed, and the waste is discarded.
- The fruit is safely collected in a stainless-steel bowl in the bottom of the device.
- A team member removes the bowl of avocado fruit and moves it to the counter where they add additional ingredients and hand mash the avocados to make Chipotle’s signature guacamole.
Autocado’s Origin Story
Vebu worked closely with Certified Training Managers from Chipotle’s restaurants to analyze the company’s preparation process and identify tasks that are time consuming and less favorable among crew members. Chipotle currently has individuals dedicated to cutting, coring, and scooping avocados. On average, it takes approximately 50 minutes to make a batch of guacamole.
Autocado’s Potential Impact
The Vebu team is aiming to improve the device’s processing speeds, which could ultimately reduce guacamole prep time by 50%, allowing Chipotle employees to focus on serving guests and providing great hospitality. In restaurants across the U.S., Canada, and Europe this year, the company is expected to use approximately 4.5 million cases of avocados, equivalent to more than 100 million pounds of fruit. In support of Chipotle’s sustainability initiatives and waste reduction efforts, Autocado also aims to increase avocado fruit yield through precision processing, which could lead to millions of dollars in annual food cost savings if the cobot is successfully developed and deployed widely.
“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.”
Integration of AI and Machine Learning
Vebu is developing an artificial intelligence and machine learning stack to be connected to all its robotic solutions, where applicable. The goal is for future iterations of Autocado to use machine learning and sensor fusion to evaluate the quality of the avocados and quantify waste reduction as well as the efficiency of the cutting, coring, and peeling processes.
Chipotle is investing in Vebu as part of Cultivate Next, the company’s $50 million venture fund that intends to make early-stage investments into strategically aligned companies that further its mission to Cultivate a Better World and help accelerate its aggressive growth plans. As a people-first company, Chipotle is seeking opportunities that will elevate the human experience for its teams as well as increase access and convenience for its guests. Investments may include innovations in farming and supply chain, advanced robotics, alternative proteins, and more.
Through Cultivate Next, Chipotle has previously invested in Hyphen, a foodservice platform designed to help restaurant owners, operators, and budding chefs move their business forward by automating kitchen operations. Hyphen’s first product, The Makeline, is being tested as a system that uses advanced software and robotics to automate meal production for all digital orders under the counter while allowing staff to assemble in-house orders from the top of the counter.
In addition to Autocado, Chipotle is currently testing Chippy, an autonomous kitchen assistant that integrates culinary traditions with artificial intelligence to make tortilla chips, in a Fountain Valley, Calif., restaurant.