Chipotle’s investment in research for innovative tech highlights the growth of AI tech in the restaurant industry. There are many great outcomes to this, ones that will have a positive effect.

Chipotle investment in AI tech fund

Chipotle, the fast casual restaurant chain known for its freshly made tacos, burritos and bowl, recently announced that it was starting a venture fund to develop innovative technologies that will help improve operations and increase customer convenience.
Chipotle's venture fund, Cultivate Next, will have an initial investment of $50million, which will be solely financed by the restaurant chain. The fund aims to support Series B companies that are developing technology which will help the fast food chain advance its Food with Integrity' mission.
The venture fund was set up after Chipotle's investment in Nuro, a startup focussed on self-driving technology. The chain has no plans to look for a defined return on investment in the near future. As per news reports, the company looks at the venture fund as a chance for improving business operations'. Many companies have already expressed interest in Chipotle's first round and the company is expected to announce its picks soon.

Chipotle’s foray into tech

This is not Chipotle first foray in investing in technology to spruce up restaurant operations. The company started investing in digital customer interactions well before the pandemic and the move paid rich dividends during the past two years.
Mobile ordering
Chipotle was the one of the first fast casual chains to implement mobile ordering in 2017 and was able to capitalise on the investment when online ordering became the norm during pandemic. The chain also started mobile pick-up shelves, where customers can pick up their orders directly, cutting down the wait time to 12 minutes.
Second make line
Chipotle is also focusing on its second make line', a preparation area for burritos being prepared for mobile, drive-thru and delivery orders. The make line has screens where orders are displayed. They also have a digital screen system that uses images of the ingredients to ensure that the staff can prepare the orders faster.
After announcing a 667%increase in delivery orders, the brand also launched digital drive-thrus in some locations where customers have to order ahead via the Chipotle app or online form and then head to the window for pickup.
The company also partnered with Miso Robotics to test out Chippy, a robot that can cook tortilla chips. It also tested a radio-frequency identification system that can be used to track and manage ingredients inventory.
Self-driving tech
Chipotle has also invested in Nuro, which is researching self driving technology to look in to custom vehicles for delivering groceries and other goods and shore up its delivery network.

Chipotle’s digital stores

Apart from opting for technology to streamline operations, Chipotle is also looking to focus on and push its digital only concept, which can help it enter urban markets which can't support a full-fledged restaurant.
The fast casual chain launched its first Chipotlane Digital Kitchen' inHighland Falls, NYin 2021. The concept is unique as it doesn't have a dining room or front of the house service. The focus is on improving turnaround time and offering customers a seamless experience.
The customers have to place an order in advance via the website, app or third party delivery apps. The orders are then prepared in the digital kitchen, which has screens to display orders and time. The orders can be collected at through the walk-up window or drive-thru.
The brand already had Chipotlanes, drive-thru pickup lanes for digital orders, since 2018 and they saw around 15% more sales compared to locations with no Chipotlanes.
The idea behind the digital kitchen concept is to make ordering easier, reduce wait times and make the app experience personal for every customer. There is customization at every point of the order from ordering the burrito to receiving a personal discount offer.

How tech is helping restaurant industry

The recent Chipotle investment in innovation technology research has once again highlighted the need for integrating technology in restaurant management. Many food and beverage establishments have already adopted technology to improve daily operations.
Food safety
Adopting technology for food safety helps improve food quality and avoid issues related to food safety. Use of digital tools like temperature probes, automated food temperature monitoring and proper labelling can help in serving serve hot, fresh food and be complaint with food safety rules.
Staff performance
Software for order and kitchen management can help restaurant managers make sure orders are accurate and staff service is smooth. Training staff in use of digital tools such as digital checklists, analytical tools for managers among others helps improve employee performance.
Team Accountability
Adopting technology also helps improve accountability, as there is a way to keep track of employee performance. The digital tools help evaluate work performance based on specific metrics. This helps staff being accountable for the consistency and quality of their work as there is a record which can be accessed via reports and analytics.

Need for technology in restaurants

Technology helps you organize and streamline a restaurant's daily operations and deliver consistent customer service. There is a need to use technology in the daily restaurant operations as it has many advantages.
Technology will upgrade the restaurant management system and streamline operations, thus increasing the workflow efficiency. Employees will also not waste time on tasks which can be automated. There is also less wastage due to software to track inventory.
Improved service
When workflow is streamlined, efficiency improves. Staff can also be be trained for better customer service. With better service, you will get more satisfied patrons andhassle-free workflow.
Increased revenue
Automation leads to optimization, which impacts expenses and incomes as optimal systems like inventory management will reduce expenses. The customers return time and again due to better service, leading to more sales and revenue.

Future of technology and restaurant industry

A study by National Restaurant Association Research and Knowledge Group shows that there will be drastic changes in the restaurant industry by 2030. Technology such as AI powered assistant to take your orders, self-driving vehicles, or robots preparing food is no longer in the realm of fiction. It is happening as we speak. The new ecosystem will have an increasing influence on consumers' decisions, and restaurants will need to keep pace with innovations.
Autonomous vehicles
There is an increase in demand for self-driving cars and this will let drivers have more time and comfort while eating.Restaurants, especially fast-food places, will have to adapt. Some big fast food chains are already experimenting with drive-thrusoftware, such as AI assistants, which can interface directly with cars. Restaurant will also cash in on the autonomous vehicles trend for delivery, and there will be less need for drivers.
Robotics in kitchen
Restaurants have already adopted technology such as touchscreen ordering kiosks. As digital technology becomes more affordable and sophisticated, there will be decrease in need for staff in kitchens too. There will be always need for cooks to add that human touch to preparation of a dish but manual labour involved in repetitive tasks like cutting and mixing will no longer be needed. Kitchen staff will have to develop non-traditional skillsets which includes working with robotics and sophisticated systems.
AI chefs
There will be increasing use of AI to analyze data about foods, ingredients, techniques, and tastes to develop new recipes. AI will be used to create new categories of cuisine and the future could be for AI chefs. A benefit of AI chefs will be less chances of mistakes. They can also create personalized dishes based on allergens, health conditions and preferences.

Change is inevitable

Adopting AI and technology to improve and streamline functioning of the restaurant industry is an inevitable process. But there will be drastic changes to the industry. The future appears amazing but with every change there are also consequences. As more and more non-essential jobs get automated, what happens to people who are employed in those positions? Will technology improve issues already present in the fast food industry? There is a need to carefully evaluate the impact of AI and how changes can be brought in with minimal damages.