Flippy, the fry-cook robot, now has a sibling that is applying for a job at Chipotle Mexican Grill.
Meet Chippy, an autonomous kitchen assistant developed by Flippy maker Miso Robotics. Chippy is being “trained” to make Chipotle’s tortilla chips, which are made in house daily from corn masa flour, water and sunflower oil and seasoned with a dusting of salt and lime juice.
Chipotle said Wednesday the tortilla-frying tech is being tested at Chipotle’s Cultivate Center innovation hub in Irvine, Calif., near the company’s Newport Beach, Calif. headquarters. As the chain does with potential menu additions, the use of Chippy will go through Chipotle’s star-gate testing process before being considered for implementation.
In its fourth quarter report last month, Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol said the 3,000-unit chain was looking at ways to improve the worker experience, including using robotics and automation to take on tasks workers don’t love doing, like cleaning dishes or cutting avocados.
Curt Garner, Chipotle’s chief technical officer, said in a statement, “We are always exploring opportunities to enhance our employee and guest experience. Our goal is to drive efficiencies through collaborative robotics that will enable Chipotle’s crew members to focus on other tasks in the restaurant.”
But Nevielle Panthaky, Chipotle’s vice president of culinary, added in statement that Chippy will mimic the qualities humans bring to tortilla frying.
“Everyone loves finding a chip with a little more salt or an extra hint of lime,” he said. “To ensure we didn’t lose the humanity behind our culinary experience, we trained Chippy extensively to ensure the output mirrored our current product, delivering some subtle variations in flavor that our guests expect.”
Flippy was first demonstrated at the Pasadena, Calif.-based CaliBurger concept, and then later hired at White Castle to create more back-of-the-house efficiencies. Last month, White Castle said it plans to deploy a newer version (“Flippy 2”) at 100 stand-alone locations.
A wing-frying version — “Wingy” — has also been tested by Buffalo Wild Wings. And Miso has developed other products designed to take on human tasks or ensure consistency, including an automated beverage dispenser (“Sippy”) and a grill monitor called CookRight that ensures steaks are flipped or removed at the right time.
Mike Bell, Miso Robotics’ CEO, said in a statement the new partnership with Chipotle will allow the company to move into new territory.
“When Chipotle challenged us to see if our technology could meet the brand’s high standards for culinary quality, we couldn’t wait to flex our engineering and design muscle,” he said.
Chipotle in 2020 began experimenting with AI-fueled automation with the introduction of Pepper, the chain’s concierge bot, who can assist with the digital ordering process.
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