NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.—Chipotle Mexican Grill has invested in Nuro, a leader in autonomous delivery, as part of the company’s Series C funding round. Nuro uses robotics in its fleet of on-road, occupant-less and autonomous vehicles to deliver everyday consumer goods. This is the first significant investment in a third-party technology company Chipotle has made since Chairman and CEO Brian Niccol took the helm in 2018.
“We are always seeking opportunities that provide innovative solutions for increasing access and convenience for our guests," Curt Garner, the chain’s chief technology officer, said in a press release. “Nuro could change the traditional delivery model, and we believe consumers are going to continue to seek options and additional access points for how and where they enjoy their food.”
Expanding access and convenience through Chipotle's digital ecosystem is a strategic priority for the company. Chipotle's digital business grew over 174% year over year in 2020, with about half of the digital sales coming from delivery. Early investments in digital innovation have provided a competitive advantage operationally with digital kitchens and the brand's Chipotlanes. Now the organization is exploring disruptive opportunities outside of traditional third-party partnerships.
“Nuro and Chipotle share the same commitment to improving everyday life through innovative products, whether it's through responsibly sourced food or autonomous delivery vehicles," said Dave Ferguson, Nuro co-founder and president. “With financial and strategic support from world-class companies like Chipotle, we can continue to advance our industry-leading autonomous technology, grow our team and expand our delivery service.”
In addition to increasing access in the U.S., Chipotle announced earlier this week that it will be expanding its footprint in Canada with new restaurant openings over the next year. Chipotle recently added its first-ever customizable digital entrée, the Hand-Crafted Quesadilla, to the Chipotle app and Chipotle.com.
Chipotle isn’t the only one investing in Nuro. In 2020, both Walmart and Kroger announced partnerships with the autonomous delivery company, and in 2019, Domino’s launched a pilot program to deploy Nuro’s unmanned vehicles in Houston. For more on Nuro and companies delivering last-mile deliver solutions, read “Robots Deliver” in NACS Magazine.
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NACS Research last year released its landmark “NACS Last Mile Fulfillment in Convenience Retail” study, outlining the opportunity for convenience retailers to grow sales and expand customer reach. Download it free here.