Chipotle is testing out a new automated system to prepare some of its menu items that are placed online, in hopes of streamlining the assembly process and giving employees the ability to focus on other tasks.
The fast-casual restaurant announced Tuesday it would be testing a new system from Hyphen, a food-service platform that works by automating some kitchen operations.
The automated system will be tasked with assembling burrito bowls and salads that are typically handled by employees.
The system will only be used on orders placed online through the company’s website, app or other third-party food ordering platforms, the company said.
In a release issued Tuesday, Chipotle laid out the workflow for when the automated system would come into play and how the process works.
If a customer places an online order that includes a bowl or salad, those entrees would be routed to Hyphen’s automated system. The bowl will begin its journey below an active workstation and would then move along a conveyor belt-esque system that dispenses the appropriate amount of ingredients along the way. At the same time, an actual employee can use the top of the same station to assemble other entree items, like burritos, tacos or quesadillas.
The completed bowl would then be raised from the bottom of the automated machine to an opening in the countertop, where a Chipotle employee would place the lid and finish putting together the entire order, including chips and sides.
Chipotle says the new system will free up more time for employees to focus on customer service and other entrees that require more hands-on assembly.
Bowls or salads comprise about 65% of all Chipotle digital orders, and streamlining the assembly process would increase the capacity for digital orders when restaurants are busiest, and improve the accuracy of digital orders.
Curt Garner, chief customer and technology officer for Chipotle, said the Hyphen automated system will help “unlock the human potential of our workforce, ensuring an elevated dining experience for our guests.” He said the hope is that these new automated systems will become the “centerpiece” of all the restaurants’ “digital kitchens.”
Chipotle, which has more than 3,250 locations in North America and Europe, is a major investor in Hyphen and its automated technology.
Testing of the automated system will officially take place at the “Chipotle Cultivate Center,” the company’s official test kitchen in Irvine.