Over the past year, the coronavirus pandemic has forced businesses in the food industry to rethink their traditional models and put more focus on digital transactions. For Chipotle, expansion isn't just limited to in-app orders — the company is planning to roll out its own fleet of delivery robots.
The burrito chain has partnered with Nuro, which uses brain imaging technology for marketing and analytics, to bring your favorite meal to your doorstep. Nuro is designing a robotic vehicle specially designed to complete tasks, like food delivery, although the design is still in its early stages.
"It's a few years out but we think it's within probably a five-year time frame," Jack Hartung, Chipotle's chief financial officer, told Cheddar.
The program will likely be initiated in suburban areas primarily while Nuro and Chipotle navigate how to make the service more city-friendly.
"Right now there's no talk about having the robot enter the building and navigate an elevator," he said of urban delivery challenges.
The introduction of delivery robots is part of a larger internal plan for Chiptole to expand its digital business, which, according to Hartung, was already the fastest-growing segment of the business.
"We think that investing in technology in general, which we've done a lot over the last three or four or five years, we think that's really paid off for us not only during the pandemic but even before the pandemic," he explained.
A new delivery vehicle has yet to be designed for the initiative but will be created with consumers in mind. Hartung expects the vehicles to come equipped with temperature-controlled compartments to keep hot foods hot, cold foods cold.
While bots aren't expected to roll up with burritos in tow for at least five years, customers in Canada can expect a few new locations to pop up over the next year. Eight to be exact.
Canada already has nearly two dozen locations and Hartung says the brand's success is driving the new round of openings.
"Canada has been a great market for us. Most of our attention over the last few years has been on the U.S. business for obvious reasons," Hartung said. "But in the meantime, we hired a new managing director, Anat Davidzon, in Canada about four years ago, and she's done a great job with shoring up the operations, a great job with strengthening our supply chain. She's also tightened up the economics there."