Going into Chipotle Mexican Grill and ordering nachos, if you can taste salty or slightly lighter or heavier orange juice, you may think that the chef is “playing on the spot”, but in fact, this is from the hands of a special chef-artificial intelligence kitchen assistant Chippy.
Chippy, Miso Robotics’ custom automated kitchen assistant for Chipotle, was recently tested at the Chipotle Cultivate Center in Irvine, California, and plans to work in a California restaurant later this year.
Chippy from Miso Robotics isn’t the first kitchen robot. Burger restaurant White Castle is using the kitchen robot Flippy to make mini burgers in 2020, and will take over frying in February 2022 with the new Flippy 2. Another restaurant chain, Buffalo Wild Wings, is testing Flippy Wings designed for fried chicken wings, and Chipotle employs a slightly different Chippy.
In keeping with branding requirements, Chipotle’s culinary team directed Miso Robotics to customize. “We couldn’t wait to showcase our engineering and design prowess when Chipotle challenged us to see if our technology met the high standards of culinary quality,” said Mike Bell, CEO of Miso Robotics.
Trained by artificial intelligence, Chippy can accurately replicate the Chipotle recipe—cook corn to perfection with cornmeal, water, and sunflower oil, season with salt, and finish with a dash of fresh orange juice. Technology must remain the same so customers can enjoy delicious nachos every time.
Not only does it replicate the recipe accurately, but Chippy also has a little more “human taste”. Chipotle writes a program for Chippy, and the taste will be slightly different each time to meet customers’ expectations for changes, such as a little more orange juice or a little more salt.
Some chains, like White Castle, Buffalo Wild Wings and Chipotle, have adopted or tested robotics for work, and there are concerns about job losses. In fact, the service industry has always had a labor shortage problem, and it is not easy to hire and retain employees. Technological innovations allow overworked workers to reduce workloads and make restaurants easier to operate.
Chipotle said: “We are always exploring opportunities to improve the employee and guest experience, with the goal of increasing efficiency through robotics, allowing Chipotle employees to focus on other services. People will still be involved in making most of the food such as burritos, Chippy’s role is to improve the experience, customers may Get food faster and with more consistent quality, especially during busy times.”
In this sense, kitchen robots are meant to make life easier for kitchen workers, not to replace chefs. At least that’s what Chipotle thinks so far.