Chipotle Mexican Grill on Tuesday announced the launch of a $50 million venture fund designed to help seed “strategically aligned” companies that will join the fast-casual chain’s mission to Cultivate a Better World.
Dubbed Cultivate Next, the venture fund will initially be financed solely by Chipotle and make early-stage investments in seed-to-Series B-stage companies that can accelerate Chipotle’s ability to run great restaurants, amplify technology and innovation, advance the Food With Integrity mission, and expand access and convenience for customers, the company said.
“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, Chipotle’s chief technology officer, in a statement. “Investing in forward-thinking ventures that are looking to drive meaningful change at scale will help accelerate Chipotle’s aggressive growth plans.”
Chipotle has long been building its position as a tech-forward company, most recently testing the use of an artificially intelligent robot named Chippy to cook tortilla chips, as well as testing radio-frequency indentification, or RFID, tags to trace and track ingredients.
Company officials have hinted at use of a new scheduling tool that uses machine learning to build more effective schedules. And last year Chipotle invested in the delivery company Nuro, which uses robotics to power a fleet of driverless delivery vehicles.
The nearly 3,000-unit Chipotle is not the only company investing in tech and innovation.
In recent years, Yum Brands Inc. acquired Australia-based kitchen order management and delivery tech company Dragontail Systems, and also bought Israeli ordering and marketing platform TicTuk Technologies, and AI marketing company Kvantum.
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