Earlier this year, Chipotle launched a $50 million venture fund that aims to address various challenges facing the restaurant sector.
One technology that Chipotle has invested in is robotics company Nuro, a self-driving technology in Priuses and custom vehicles to deliver groceries and other goods. Chipotle also intends to launch Chippy, a robotic tortilla chip maker, later this year.
Chipotle is hardly alone. Stellar Pizza, a company founded by former SpaceX engineers, is planning to launch robot-made pizza later this year.
Wing Zone, a 61-unit chain, has been testing Flippy 2, a robotic French Fry flipper, in restaurants, and plans to develop fully automated restaurants in the near future.
Miso Robotics, a cooking robot purveyor, has secured relationships with White Castle, Jack-in-the-Box and Chipotle.
Perhaps the biggest user of robotics in fast food right now is White Castle, which plans to bring Miso’s Flippy 2 to 100 of its locations, according to The Street.
For fast food customers, the benefit here is there’s less chance of getting germs in your food since robots are handling it -- and there’s no danger of an overworked employee getting your order wrong.
The restaurant industry is at a point in which it might consider robotics. The turnover rate in food service reached 130.7% in 2020, according to QSR.
One fast feeder that’s not on the robotics bandwagon is McDonald’s. McDonald’s CEO, Chris Kempczinski, told analysts on a July 26 call that "The idea of robots and all those things…it's not practical in the vast majority of restaurants." He added, "You're not going to see that as a broad-based solution anytime soon."