NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.—Chipotle has created a $50 million venture fund to invest in “strategically aligned companies” seeking series B stage funding, according to a news release.
The venture called Cultivate Next, financed solely by Chipotle, aims to invest in companies that can accelerate the company's strategic priorities in operations, technology and innovation, furthering its “Food With Integrity” mission and expanding access and convenience for consumers.
"We are exploring investments in emerging innovation that will enhance our employee and guest experience, and quite possibly revolutionize the restaurant industry," said Curt Garner, chief technology officer, Chipotle. "Investing in forward-thinking ventures that are looking to drive meaningful change at scale will help accelerate Chipotle's aggressive growth plans."
If companies are interested in applying for funding through Cultivate Next, they can email Chipotle directly.
Chipotle recently began testing an AI robot, Chippy, to cook its tortilla chips, as well as radio-frequency identification (RFID) to trace and track ingredients in its restaurants. Chipotle says it’s also leveraging a new scheduling tool that uses machine learning to build more effective schedules and last year, made an investment in a leading autonomous delivery company, Nuro.
Fast-casual restaurants flourished during the pandemic by leaning in on the tools that were already part of their business model to effectively reach their customer—think digital ordering, loyalty, pickup and drive-thrus. Chipotle grew its loyalty program considerably during the pandemic. Before COVID-19, Chipotle had fewer than 10 million rewards members, and by December 2021, there were 24.5 million.