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Portola Pilot

The student news site of Portola High School

Portola Pilot

The student news site of Portola High School

Portola Pilot

Bowls, Salads and Automation: A Look Into Chipotle’s New Digital Makeline Currently Being Tested in Irvine

A+Chipotle+team+member+rolls+a+burrito+while+the+automated+makeline+assembles+a+bowl.+Burritos%2C+tacos%2C+quesadillas+and+kids+meals+can+be+made+above+the+makeline+while+the+automated+system+creates+bowls+and+salads.+
Courtesy of Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.
A Chipotle team member rolls a burrito while the automated makeline assembles a bowl. Burritos, tacos, quesadillas and kid’s meals can be made above the makeline while the automated system creates bowls and salads.

It is nearly impossible to be a Portola High student without knowing of Chipotle. A few are employed at the local Woodbury Town Center Chipotle location; some have parents working corporate jobs at Chipotle’s headquarters in nearby Newport Beach. Many more frequently order from the health-conscious Mexican eatery during lunch. 

The chain’s ubiquitous presence in the subconscious of Portola High students was furthered yet again early last month. Chipotle made national headlines after announcing that an automated digital makeline designed by Hyphen began testing at the Chipotle Cultivate Center in Irvine. 

The new automated system, alongside the Autocado, is one of many cobots (collaborative robots) that Chipotle is experimenting with in its test kitchen before potentially expanding these technologies to additional locations.

Take a sneak peek behind the curtains of the test kitchen to learn more about Chipotle’s new digital makeline from a Chipotle Spokesperson’s interview with the Portola Pilot below:

Why was the Chipotle Cultivate Center in Irvine selected for the test run of the digital makeline? 

The Chipotle Cultivate Center features a test kitchen where team members can experiment with new technology without interfering with an operating restaurant.  

Is Chipotle’s decision to invest in automation technologies part of a broader shift that the food services industry as a whole is headed towards?

Our goal is to leverage technology to amplify our existing capabilities and find more efficient ways to react and recover from busy periods to help our restaurant employees continue providing great hospitality for our guests. We see Hyphen as a true cobot. Along with building burritos, tacos, quesadillas, and kid’s meals for digital orders, the employee working alongside the Hyphen digital makeline is responsible for the quality check and adding side items to the order.

When could this technology be expected to be implemented at further Chipotle locations? 

The Hyphen digital makeline is currently being tested at Chipotle Cultivate Center as a first step of Chipotle’s stage-gate process, which allows us to test and learn from crew feedback. Following this step, we will install the model in a restaurant to generate additional insights from consumers and crew before deciding on a larger restaurant implementation strategy.

What does Chipotle hope to accomplish with investments such as these in technology?

We are looking to make investments that will increase guest access to Chipotle as well as elevate the human experience for our teams. It could be anything from innovations in farming and supply chain, to advanced robotics, and beyond, as long as it helps further our mission to Cultivate a Better World.

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About the Contributor
Tyler Kim, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Tyler Kim is an Editor-in-Chief for his third and final year writing for the Portola Pilot. Besides the production's monthly spreadsheet, you'll be sure to find in his tabs a seemingly random Wikipedia page filled with purple links, far too many podcast subscriptions on Spotify and numerous second-draft comments where he advises writers that their diction may not be the mot juste. If you wish to pique his interest mention a Wes Anderson film, Aaron Sorkin show, Pax Romana or the New Yorker crossword (unless it's a Monday).
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