Mexican Grill Chipotle (NYSE: CMG) has invested in standalone delivery company Nuro, according to a press release from the company today. Chipotle describes the move as his “first major investment in a third-party tech company” since CEO Brian Niccol took over in 2018.
The fast casual restaurant may be moving in the same direction as Domino’s Pizza, whose vice president of marketing, Dennis Maloney, once described the restaurant chain as “an e-commerce company that sells pizza.”
The Mexican-style restaurant weathered the COVID-19 pandemic by fighting, making heavy use of CNC and various delivery methods to maintain cash flow during bottlenecks. The company’s increased use of so-called “Chipotlanes,” or drive-through pickup lanes, has helped it bolster sales even during the worst times of the pandemic-related economic shutdown. Chipotle restaurants with advanced lanes outperform those without, with CFO Jack Hartung noting that “the results reaffirm our strategy of an accelerated hub to Chipotlane sites,” according to MarketWatch.
Although Chipotle executives were initially reluctant to go digital, according to the same source, they now appear to have embraced the model. Chipotle now operates digital-only kitchens without a physical dining room, for example. CTO Curt Garner said “Nuro could change the traditional delivery model and we believe consumers will continue to look for options.”
Nuro is an autonomous and robotic delivery vehicle start-up that is licensed to use its vehicles on public streets in California, receiving the green light from the Golden State Department of Motor Vehicles in December 2020. The small autonomous vehicle R2 at Nuro’s chubby appearance received an Exemption from the United States Department of Transportation in February 2020 and was subsequently tested in three states.
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