Mexican fast food chain Chipotle has launched a new $50 million venture fund aimed at early-stage restaurant technology startups.
The Cultivate Next fund will focus on startups that “will enhance our employee and guest experience, and quite possibly revolutionize the restaurant industry," Curt Garner, Chipotle's chief technology officer, said in a statement Tuesday.
Chipotle, which is based in Newport Beach, has been active in the food tech space recently. The company partnered with Pasadena-based Miso Robotics to create an automated machine designed to cook and season Chipotle’s signature tortilla chips. The robot, named “Chippy,” is currently being tested at the Chipotle Cultivate Center innovation hub in Irvine.
“Investing in forward-thinking ventures that are looking to drive meaningful change at scale will help accelerate Chipotle's aggressive growth plans,” Garner said.
Los Angeles is home to a growing scene of startups active in food tech, a sector that received $39.3 billion of venture capital funding last year, according to PitchBook data. Many startups have looked to assist a restaurant industry that is grappling with supply chain issues and labor shortages; Wavemaker Labs, a food tech incubator based in Santa Monica, has backed several startups that aim to automate food assembly processes—including "Chippy" designer Miso Robotics and robotic pizza vending machine Piestro.
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