Chipotle's latest hire might mean misproportioned burrito bowls are a thing of the past.
Earlier this week, the fast-casual chain introduced its followers on Instagram to the latest member of its team: a burrito bowl-packing robot named Hyphen. According to the brand's Oct. 3 post, Hyphen is an automated assistant or a “collaborative robot” currently being fine-tuned to work alongside Chipotle’s human employees.
In a statement issued to TODAY.com via email, a representative for Chipotle Mexican Grill said in part that “the social post is regarding Chipotle’s recent announcement to test a new digital makeline.”
Chipotle’s post featured a video of how Hyphen is meant to work. It apparently operates like a well-oiled robot machine: serving rice, meat and beans into the chain’s signature bowl before sprinkling it all over with cheese and other toppings.
“Hyphen is being tuned to craft perfectly portioned burrito bowls and salads along an automated makeline, while a crew member makes burritos, tacos, and quesadillas above the line,” the post’s caption reads in part.
According to the Instagram post, nearly 65% of Chipotle’s digital orders include requests for bowls or salads.
“So with Hyphen on board, team members would be freed up to focus on guest experiences while increasing the number of digital orders during peak periods,” the company’s Instagram post reads.
In the comments section of the Instagram post, users questioned whether the robot would mean the company would have an impact on food quality and employment.
“The food going to be portioned down to the ounce to save a couple of bucks,” one user commented.
According to Chipotle’s email to TODAY.com, Curt Garner, Chipotle’s chief customer and technology officer, said that Hyphen instead pushes for the company’s effort to ensure an “elevated” guest dining experience.
“Building those entrees on the digital makeline can be a repetitive task with minimum human interaction,” Garner’s statement continued in part. “It doesn’t have the same art as guac prep or rolling a burrito. We think this task is better served by a machine while an employee can deploy their time to operating the top makeline or prepping more fresh food.”
If Chipotle’s latest robot test feels like déjà vu, it’s because it’s likely not your first time hearing about the brand taking this approach.
In July, Chipotle revealed that it developed a robot capable of cutting, coring and peeling avocados. Called “Autocado,” the robot was reported to be able to hold 25 pounds of avocado at one time.