Chipotle Mexican Grill has formed a new venture which intends to make early-stage investments into strategically aligned businesses.
The company’s ‘Cultivate Next’ initiative aims to support seed to Series B stage companies that can accelerate its strategic priorities such as “running great restaurants, amplifying technology and innovation, further advancing its Food With Integrity mission, and expanding access and convenience for consumers.”
The new venture fund will have an initial size of $50m and will be financed solely by Chipotle.
“We are exploring investments in emerging innovation that will enhance our employee and guest experience, and quite possibly revolutionize the restaurant industry,” explained Curt Garner, chief technology officer at Chipotle. “Investing in forward-thinking ventures that are looking to drive meaningful change at scale will help accelerate Chipotle’s aggressive growth plans.”
Chipotle recently began testing an artificially intelligent robot, Chippy, to cook its tortilla chips, as well as radio-frequency identification (RFID) to trace and track ingredients in its restaurants.
These steps will “both drive efficiencies and enhance the human experience”, according to the company.
Chipotle is also leveraging a new scheduling tool that uses machine learning to build more effective schedules, while last year it made an investment in a leading autonomous delivery company, Nuro.
Chipotle runs almost 3,000 restaurants globally covering the US, Canada, UK, France and Germany.
It holds the distinction of being the only restaurant company of its size that owns and operates all its restaurants.