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Chipotle Founder Plans New Robot-Powered Restaurant
Join us at IDDBA 2023: June 4-5 in Anaheim
As we enjoy the long holiday weekend, we’d like to remind readers about something even more exciting that kicks off next weekend: IDDBA 2023 - in Anaheim, California. The International Dairy Deli Bakery Association will be convening nearly 10,000 attendees from across the grocery and food-service industries, June 4th to 6th. Meet with vendors, see the future of the sector, and learn from the top minds reshaping the space. As part of the “What’s In Store Live” lineup of panels, OttOmate’s Publisher Jonah Bliss will be hosting a conversation with Sahil Sharma of Coco and Darian Ahler of Vebu Labs on “A Taste of the Future: What's Next for Robotics & Automation.”
Steve Ells Cooks Up Kernel: Automated Fast Food
Steve Ells, the founder and former CEO of Chipotle, is launching a new fast-food venture that leverages robotics and a significantly reduced labor model. According to draft investor materials first shared with The New York Post, the startup, named Kernel, aims to rethink the labor, technology, real estate, and menu aspects of the fast-food industry using "automation with a human touch." The company's operational model suggests it can function with a three-person labor model in compact, tech-heavy kitchens. Kernel's first store launch is expected in late 2023 in lower Manhattan, with Ells self-funding the startup ahead of a planned fundraising round which could range between $30 million and $50 million.
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Kernel's business model emphasizes a significantly smaller footprint, with store sizes about a third of those operated by Sweetgreen and Shake Shack. Food will likely be prepared at an offsite commissary before being delivered to stores for final assembly and sale, similar to office-worker lunch staples like Dig and Little Beet. The automation-heavy model will provide portion-controlled and logistically connected services to ordering platforms for quick pickup and delivery. Automation will be front and center to the experience, with storefronts allowing customers to witness their food being prepared by the robotic kitchen.
Kernel plans to offer a wide array of cuisines inspired by various global influences. Additionally, the company is exploring licensing its operating system to other businesses. Kernel's team includes veterans from names that include Goldman Sachs, Apple, Amazon, Eleven Madison Park, GoPuff and more. As company representative Sarah Rosenberg puts it, Kernel is a “tech-enabled fast-food concept that leverages software and robotics.”
Walmart Opens New High-Tech Market Fulfillment Center
Walmart has opened its first high-tech in-store fulfillment center near its Arkansas headquarters, a development which significantly enhances the retailer's ability to handle a larger volume of online grocery orders each day. The Market Fulfillment Center (MFC) includes a proprietary storage and retrieval system known as Alphabot. This system utilizes autonomous carts in a warehouse-style space to retrieve ordered items and deliver them to a workstation. A Walmart associate then checks, bags, and delivers the final order. This setup, according to Walmart, improves efficiencies, customer satisfaction, and boosts employee productivity. After piloting the system at an earlier location in New Hampshire, Walmart plans to roll out more MFCs nationwide.
Amazon Just Walk Out Strolls to Cincinnati
Amazon is bringing its frictionless check-out system to the home of Kroger, Procter & Gamble and Macy’s. TQL Stadium, home of the FC Cincinnati soccer team, now sports the technology at the SuperBook Marketplace: meaning tens of thousands of fans hungry for pizza and beer will familiarize themselves with the concept. Unfortunately the Amazon, the local media seems to find the concept off-putting, and the time-savings minimal.
More Funding & Event News
Across the Atlantic, NEXT Retail is turning to Geekplus Technology for a pick-and-sort system that will allow the British fashion giant to push its cut-off time for next-day deliveries to 10 PM. Marquee industry event Automate is set to move to an annual schedule, as this year’s show was heavily attended. ICRA 2023 kicks off in London. Global private market fundraising down 38% YoY. Delivers.AI plans U.S. launch at Nourish + Bloom market.
OttOmate is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.