Chipotle Pilots AI Tech to Streamline Kitchen Operations

The solutions include a cook-to-needs management system and advanced location-based technology.

September 28, 2022

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.—Chipotle Mexican Grill announced it is piloting advanced technologies to enhance its employee and guest experience by streamlining operations and reducing friction. The fast-casual chain recently began piloting two new technologies in its restaurants to deliver precise forecasting, optimal quality and increased convenience for digital guests.

In select Southern California restaurants, Chipotle is piloting a cook-to-needs kitchen management system that provides demand-based cooking and ingredient preparation forecasts to optimize throughput and freshness while minimizing food waste. Leveraging AI and machine learning, the system monitors ingredient levels in real time and notifies the crew how much to prep, cook and when to start cooking, while automatically populating real time production planning for each restaurant.

"The new kitchen management system has alleviated manual tasks for our crew and given restaurant managers the tools they need to make informed in the moment decisions, ultimately enabling them to focus on an exceptional culinary and an outstanding guest experience," said Curt Garner, chief technology officer.

Chipotle's new kitchen management system, powered by PRECITASTE, is currently being tested at eight restaurants in Orange County, California. Chipotle said that early results indicate the pilot is effectively streamlining kitchen operations for crew members while always ensuring a full line of fresh ingredients for guests.

The company is simultaneously piloting advanced location-based technology to enhance its app functionality and provide a seamless, convenient experience for guests. For guests who opt-in, the program can engage with Chipotle App users upon arrival and utilizes real-time data to enhance their experience with order readiness messaging, wrong pickup location detection, reminders to scan the Chipotle Rewards QR code at checkout, and more.

"Empowering our restaurants with advanced technologies is critical for operational excellence and better positions our teams for our ambitious growth plans," added Scott Boatwright, chief restaurant officer.

Chipotle's contextual restaurant program, utilizing Radius Networks' technology platform, Flybuy, is being tested at 73 restaurants in Cleveland, Ohio. Early results indicate positive performance with improved in-store rewards engagement, order alert notifications and efficiencies with earlier assignments for marketplace delivery drivers.

Chipotle's autonomous kitchen assistant introduced earlier this year to drive efficiencies through collaborative robotics has moved to its next stage of operational testing. CHIPPY, which integrates culinary traditions with artificial intelligence to make tortilla chips, was relocated from the Chipotle Cultivate Center to official installation in-restaurant. Chippy will start cooking chips for guests next month in a Fountain Valley, California, location while the brand leverages its stage-gate process to listen, test and learn from crew and guest feedback before deciding on a national implementation strategy.

In April, Chipotle announced its Cultivate Next venture fund, which is a $50 million venture fund to invest in “strategically aligned companies” seeking series B stage funding and said it’s “seeking opportunities that will elevate the human experience for its teams as well as increase access and convenience for its guests.”

NACS Magazine explored AI and machine learnings applications for the c-store industry, especially in foodservice, in “Welcome to an Intelligent 2022” in the January 2022 issue.

The 2022 NACS Show, October 1-4, in Las Vegas includes four education sessions on foodservice: Menu Optimization: Think Like a RestaurantGlobal Foodservice Trends & MenusFoodservice Analytics: The Recipe for Success; and Gulp! Reinvigorated Dispensed BeveragesRegister today to attend the NACS Show.