- Chipotle said Thursday it's investing in two startups through its $50 million venture fund, Cultivate Next.
- The burrito chain invested in Hyphen, which automates plate and bowl portioning, and Meati, a mushroom-based meat alternative company.
Chipotle said Thursday it's investing in two companies that have the potential to accelerate its growth — one that automates kitchen operations and another that makes plant-based versions of chicken and steak with mushrooms.
The Newport Beach, California-based company said Cultivate Next, its $50 million venture fund, will invest in Hyphen and Meati Foods.
Hyphen uses robotics to automate portioning out bowls and plates without the need for staff, Chipotle said in a release. Hyphen says its technology can make over 350 meals an hour.
The investment comes amid nationwide staffing shortages and is not Chipotle's first foray into automation investment. Last year, the company invested in Nuro, an automated delivery company, before creating its Cultivate Next fund. And his year, the company piloted Chippy, an autonomous machine that cooks and seasons Chipotle chips.
"Our goal is to drive efficiencies through collaborative robotics that will enable Chipotle's crew members to focus on other tasks in the restaurant," Chipotle's Chief Technology Officer Curt Garner said in a statement sent to CNBC .
Meati Foods, which received the other Cultivate Next investment, uses mushroom root to create plant-based chicken and steak alternatives. With the help of Chipotle's venture fund, Meati said it secured $150 million in its latest funding round.
Chipotle said in its release that plant-based options have been a priority for its menu in recent years. The company said it has not started the process of validating Meati products for inclusion into its menu.
Chipotle did not specify the dollar amount investments in Hyphen or Meati.