Chipotle Invests $50 Million in Restaurant Tech
Give The People Tech
In many ways, the pandemic seemed to accelerate changes to American life, including how people eat. As more people went online, tech-supported activities became the norm and the expectation. Some fast food restaurants are trying to give the people what they want, which seems to be more tech.
A 2021 Deloitte survey of restaurant patrons found that more than half of respondents preferred using apps and QR codes when ordering takeout. Customers also expressed openness to expanded automation in the kitchen, on voice ordering systems, and even in the form of drone deliveries.
Chipotle (CMG) wants to level up its tech, and the company has invested seed money to support technological innovation. Part of this effort includes the launching of a venture fund “Cultivate Next” with an initial $50 million layout. It has ambitious goals to bring innovation to 7,000 restaurants through modernization of farming, supply chain, and robotics.
This follows the company’s 2019 launch of the Chipotle Aluminaries Project, which supported eight companies in the build-out of sustainable food and development. Chipotle’s vision is shared by other large chains that are looking to tech to provide a revenue boost.
A Growing Trend
One survey found that 68% of restaurant operators expect to spend more on technology in coming years. Another poll revealed 71% of food service providers and retailers consider “digital transformation” important for the organization’s agility. Venture funds are on board with the initiatives, and in 2021 invested $39.2 billion in food tech companies.
A broad-scale move to tech is evidenced by recent acquisitions by companies like Starbucks (SBUX), Inspire Brands, and Yum (YUM). This has included enhancements like food delivery, digital ordering and marketing, and ordering funneling. Consumers may find it increasingly easy and efficient to digitally-indulge in their favorite fast food fare.
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