Fast food restaurants seem to be the next frontier for advanced robotics and automation technologies. A few months ago, we examined how Wendy’s is working with Google Cloud and Pipedream to automate its order delivery and drive-thru processes. Now Chipotle Mexican Grill has hopped on the automation bandwagon and is testing out a new cobot with the potential to slash prep times and optimize everyone’s favorite taco topping.
Meet the Autocado, a cobot that is designed to cut, core, and peel avocados to be used in Chipotle’s highly requested guacamole. The prototype was developed by Vebu, an automation company with ties to the food and beverage industry. The Autocado is currently being tested at the restaurant’s Cultivate Center in Irvine, California. According to Vebu, the robotics company worked closely with Chipotle Certified Training Managers, analyzing ways to optimize and expedite orders. They ultimately decided to focus their attention on the freshly made guacamole.
Preparing guacamole by hand is a labor-intensive endeavor, taking approximately 50 minutes to make one back of the delicious topping. The Autocado could reduce prep time by up to 50%. This might not sound like a lot until you consider that Chipotle uses about 4.5 million cases (or 100 million pounds) of avocados every year.
The Autocado functions rather simply. Up to 25 lbs of ripe avocados are loaded into the machine. The machine then orients the avocados vertically, slices them in half, and removes the core and skin before depositing the fruits in a bowl to be collected by workers.
In a recent quote, Curt Garner, Chief Customer and Technology Officer at Chipotle, said, "We are committed to exploring collaborative robotics to drive efficiencies and ease pain points for our employees. The intensive labor of cutting, coring, and scooping avocados could be relieved with Autocado, but we still maintain the essential culinary experience of hand mashing and hand preparing the guacamole to our exacting standards."