Chipotle Mexican Grillis doing its best to embrace the future.
The 3,000-unit chain has invested in Hyphen, an automated kitchen platform, as well as Meati Foods, a company focused on plant-based offerings.
Both deals are part of Cultivate Next, the chain’s $50 million venture that funds early-stage investments to help elevate the human experience as well as increase access and convenience for guests, according to Curt Garner, chief technology officer at Chipotle.
Makeline is an automated system that assembles digital orders under the counter via automated production while allowing staff to assemble in-house orders from the top of the counter,
“Hyphen is reimagining the intersection between makelines and digital kitchens, with a focus on improving speed and order accuracy,” Garner said in a company press release. “Their use of robotics to enhance the employee and guest experience to find efficiencies in the restaurant industry aligns with our mission of leveraging emerging technology to increase access to real food.”
Meati Foods serves whole-food products made from mushroom root grown indoors free of pollutants, pesticides, antibiotics or growth hormones.
“We are excited to support new ways to bring vegetables to the center of the plate though plant-based alternative protein options that mirror Chipotle’s Food With Integrity standards,” Garner said in the release. “Meati is producing responsibly grown plant-based protein that tastes delicious.”
Plant-powered options have been a priority for Chipotle’s menu innovation over the past few years. Following a national launch of Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice in January 2021, which resulted in an incremental sales lift while also attracting new guests, Chipotle announced it is testing Mexican Cauliflower Rice at 60 restaurants in Arizona, Southern California, and Wisconsin for a limited time.
“With their industry-leading commitments to sustainability and responsibly-raised ingredients, Chipotle is a likeminded leader in the movement to create sustainable food systems,” Tyler Huggins, co-founder and CEO of Meati Foods, said in the release. “Breaking ground on the Cultivate Next venture fund is an important signal of Meati’s industry leadership potential, and new investments like this will help us scale operations and our mission-driven team.
Companies interested in collaborating with Chipotle through the Cultivate Next venture fund can apply by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.