Robots Raised $749 Million in December
Kernel opens full menu, Chipotle to pilot automation, Torc talks testing
Happy post-Super Bowl Monday! How many robots do you think went to work yesterday, feeding the hungry hordes pizza and chicken wing deliveries?
Robot Startups Raised $749 Million in December
The fundraising landscape is starting to look a bit brighter; automation and robotics startups raised $749 million in December, bringing 2023’s total haul to $12.9 billion. Of the 41 notable investments, a few had interesting food, retail or restaurant focuses: Agtonomy raised $22.5M, Cyngn pulled in $5M, GreyOrange hauled in $135M, Instock got $3.2M, MQZN received an unspecified amount and Skycorp took off with $328K.
Kernel Pops Open
Kernel, the new robo-enabled restaurant by former Chipotle founder Steve Ells, officially opened for business today. Now that anyone can pop into the company’s first location in Midtown NYC, we can scan the menu for data. A small bowl of crispy potatoes or marinated beets will set you back $4; a veggie-chicken sandwich or faux-meat burger runs $7-9, while top of the line salads / bowls top out at $14. The surrounding neighborhood is chock-a-block with sandwich and bowl joints targeting office drones; those prices will need to come down a bit further as the company scales, if it hopes to win converts from say Dig or Cava.
Chipotle Unloads Healthy 2023 Earnings
Speaking of Chipotle, the burrito giant just released its 2023 financial results, topping analysts’ estimates. Revenue grew to $2.52 billion, while net income rose 26% to $282 million, thanks largely to foot traffic climbing 7.4% in the last quarter. The company hopes to push average unit volume to $4 million, and will rely on its automation ambitions to do so. CEO Brian Niccol noted on an earnings call that the company would pilot both Hyphen and Autocado in a restaurant in 2024, as part of its stage gate process.
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Torc Robotics Talks Testing
We see a lot of autonomous trucking startups in the news, for reasons both good and bad. But it’s rare to hear much from Torc Robotics, the self-driving trucker backed by Daimler. In a telling interview, CEO Walter Grigg praises the Albuquerque region for its plethora of testing environments, notes its focus on large Class 8 trucks lets it cover a broad array of use cases, and reiterates the company’s commitment to safety.