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Chipotle launches $50M venture fund in bid to foster new restaurant tech –

In an effort to make its mark as a technological advancement – and, in the process, the development of new food innovations – Chipotle today announced the launch of Cultivate Next, a fund run by Curt Garner, head restaurant chain technology. Chipotle in Cultivate Next, which will be funded by Chipotle to launch, will provide a $ 50 million component focusing on technology companies in the “seed to Series B” stages.

“We are looking to make investments that will increase Chipotle’s guest portfolio as well as enhance the human experience for our teams,” Garner told TechCrunch in an email interview. “[Cultivate Next will give] The first stage creates a great look and experience for the restaurant sector to work with a large-scale operation with impending local and international growth. “

The next big boost comes as fast-food restaurants, especially large chains, increase their investment in technology that promises to improve operations by boosting revenue. The events of the last few years including the catastrophe (and subsequent unemployment) have forced operators to explore technological solutions to long-term industry challenges, whether unrelated sales systems or – in the case of Chipotle – fried robots.

2020 Survey from Technomic notes that 68% of restaurant operators believe that their technology costs will increase slightly or significantly in the next few years. Panasonic special vote 71% of respondents rated “digital change” as more important than anything else in their organizational capacity.

Garner says part of the goal of Cultivate Next is to meet the preferences of restaurant customers who have changed dramatically during the disaster. In the Deloitte 2021 survey of restaurant guests, 57% said they would prefer to use an app app while 64% indicated they liked the QR code on site. more, more More than half of the respondents said they were willing to order from the kitchen partially or completely; choose automatic voice modes for tracks; and would consider delivering without a driver or a drone.

“Chipotle has aggressive targets of 7,000 restaurants, along with a healthy balance sheet, enabling us to invest in innovative ideas that can help with these growth plans,” Garner said. “It could be anything from agricultural innovation and supply chain, to advanced robotics, and beyond.”

Garner further clarified that Chipotle will retain the option of accepting outside capital in Cultivate Next and is still open to boosting the downturn. It is unclear what the first group might look like, but the overall idea is to support the start-up of services that develop staff skills and retention that contribute to a “positive overall experience” for restaurant guests, Garner said.

“We are committed to continuously improving the working environment of our team members [and guests] by easing the pain points or cracks in the identified areas, ”he added.

Beyond Cultivate Next, Chipotle recently supported Nuro, an automated delivery service with an extensive partner network. The restaurant chain also tested the concept of “digital kitchen”, two years ago it opened in Highland Falls, New York with no dining room open only for pick-up and drop-off.

But let’s not overdo it, Chipotle competitors have accelerated their investment in technology. Venture alone invested more than $ 39.3 billion in food technology companies and $ 2.3 billion in restaurant technology by 2021, according to Pitchbook and Crunchbase data.

Yum, the parent company of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC, has invested millions in Grubhub and by 2021 acquired Tictuk Technologies and Kvantum, a digital demand partner and marketing company. (That quickly came to the forefront of Pizza Hut’s purchase of QuikOrder online order in 2017.) Meanwhile, in 2019, McDonald’s bought – and later sold – Dynamic Yield, which uses AI to recommend menu items based on factors such as climate and climate. time of day. Elsewhere, a year after Starbucks bought AI to run the Brightbloom customer relationship management platform in 2019, Dunkin ‘owners and Arby Inspire Brands have acquired ItsaCheckmate, a product that imports third-party delivery services through the restaurant sales system.

One challenge Chipotle and its rivals will ensure is that technological innovation does not come at the expense of human opportunity. For example, 2020 report Aaron Allen & Associates predicts that 80% of restaurant work could eventually be taken over by robots, which could replace up to 57% of fast food and desk staff and 51% of servers. Beginners like Momentum Machines urge those at risk of losing their job to learn designing automated methods, but it is not easy. Rising activity often leaves the industry – 90% of fast food workers are made up of frontline workers such as cooks and cashiers and less than 1% own a business, National Labor Law Project reports.