Chipotle's New Test Robot May Soon Be Making Your Tortilla Chips

Most conversations about robots in the fast food industry focus on the fear that workers will become obsolete due to automation. What if McDonald's could remove human error entirely to ensure the Big Mac is always exactly the same?

Perhaps Chipotle sensed the angst. When the company reached out to Miso Robotics, the expressed purpose was to ease one job workers reportedly don't like doing: making tortilla chips. "We asked our team members if we could find a better mousetrap for anything in the restaurant, and what that would be, and up at the top of the list was a better way to make chips," Curt Garner, the chief technology officer of Chipotle, told CNBC. Specifically, the issue was how to keep chip stocks filled while a Chipotle location is in the thick of a rush.

So, Chipotle has partnered with Miso Robotics to test run Chippy in Chipotle's Cultivate Center in Irvine, California. This isn't the first test for Miso Robotics though. In 2020, when lockdowns were spreading through the country, they teamed with CaliBurger to design a machine to flip burgers so that workers wouldn't have to touch it. Similarly, in February 2022, White Castle decided it was so pleased with how their flipping robots worked that they decided to install them in 100 restaurants.

How do employees feel about the chip robot?

Again, as CNBC noted, about "Chippy," the robot created to help make Chipotle's famous tortilla chips, is still in the "test run" phase. But are workers at Chipotle worried about losing their jobs down the line?

Again, it's early days yet, but the subreddit has hosted mixed responses to the innovation. "As a chip fryer, I'm insulted," one commented on a post about the news. "As a chip fryer," someone else responded, "I'm all for it." Rounding out the rule of three, a third piped up "As a chip fryer, it depends on the day."

While some worry that this could mean less job opportunities for human beings, the counterpoint also exists that someone will have to refill the chip bags and keep the robot running. "This will replace a person. Meaning you will get less labor, and someone will no longer have a job," one Redditor concluded. In short, the debate that is happening on a societal level carries on the same among Chipotle workers.