May 26, 2024

Chipotle’s solution for cutting avocados may be coming to a store near you as early as this year.

Back in July 2023, Chipotle began testing the Autocado robot, essentially a robot that could cut, core, and peel avocados. During the company’s first-quarter earnings call Wednesday, Brian Niccol, Chipotle’s CEO, said that the company has “prototypes in” and is “feeling really good about getting those into a restaurant.” Chipotle plans to deploy some of the robots at its busier locations as early as this year, he added.

Technology may be one way Chipotle wants to get a handle on California’s new wage hike, which increased the minimum wage from $16 to $20 an hour. The law, which went into effect in April, forced Chipotle to raise its menu prices in the region by 7%, executives said during the earnings call.

The technological updates come as the company is seeing its sales boom. Shares of Chipotle were up by 4% in after-hours trading after it reported better-than-expected earnings for its first quarter, in part thanks to its rebrand and reintroduction of its Braised Beef Barbacoa and Al Pastor Chicken menu items.

“When we bring back past favorites, we can improve the entire experience as we leverage our culinary operations to make [the items] more delicious with seamless execution,” Niccol said during the company’s earnings call.

The restaurant chain modestly beat Wall Street’s expectations. Chipotle generated revenue of $2.7 billion, about $13.37 earnings per share. Analysts had forecasted that it would report $2.67 billion, roughly $11.63 earnings per share.

Chipotle’s CFO Jack Hartung told analysts during its earnings call that transactions are up despite challenges earlier this year and that’s thanks to its faster service.

“When the lines are moving well, when the restaurants are running well, people like to come in and select their meal,” Hartung said, noting that the chain is “seeing gains across all income cohorts.”

Chipotle plans to continue investing in technology to meet demand and fill gaps in its diminishing labor force — but that hasn’t always gone according to plan. In March 2022, Chipotle deployed “Chippy,” a tortilla chip-making robot, but stopped using the AI-powered assistant after employees reported it was too cumbersome to clean.

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