Tortilla chips, meet microchips.
Chipotle announced Wednesday it has partnered with a robotics company to create a robot named Chippy that will make — you guessed it — tortilla chips.
“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,” Chipotle Chief Technology Officer Curt Garner said in a statement.
Calling Chippy "an autonomous kitchen assistant that integrates culinary traditions with artificial intelligence," Chipotle teamed up with Miso Robotics to create the automated cook, which will follow Chipotle’s exact recipe of corn masa flour, water, sunflower oil, salt and fresh lime juice to make the chips, with the added bonus that the taste won’t be compromised.
"Everyone loves finding a chip with a little more salt or an extra hint of lime," said Nevielle Panthaky, vice president of culinary at Chipotle. "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."
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"We heard that our restaurant teams would like to see the process of frying chips be more efficient," Garner told TODAY Food.
Garner also said Chippy can alleviate the burden of the job among its human employees.
"Investing in technology to enhance our restaurant processes is a win-win as we know that when we help make any aspect of our teams’ jobs easier, they have more time to spend serving and supporting our guests as well as on other tasks," he said.
Most customers shouldn’t expect to see Chippy just yet. It’s being tested at the Chipotle Cultivate Center in Irvine, California, and will be placed into one of the chain’s eateries in Southern California later this year before the company settles on a plan for rolling out Chippy across the country.
Artificial intelligence appears to be a growing presence in the restaurant world. Last month, White Castle announced the creation of Flippy 2 — also developed by Miso Robotics — to flip burgers.
Sonic, McDonald’s and Checkers are among the fast-food chains who’ve utilized robots at drive-thrus. Robots also prepared and served food to reporters at the Beijing Winter Olympics, while a Latin American restaurant in Dallas utilized a trio of cyborgs to work as servers during the pandemic.
Robots have also made their presence in other parts of the food world, with the country’s largest supermarket chain, Kroger, tapping them to help prepare online orders.