After having his buttons pushed for long enough, the founder and former CEO of Chipotle has finally announced his next venture.
Steve Ells’ highly-anticipated vegetarian concept Kernel is slated to debut in downtown Manhattan early next year, and another 15 locations will crop up around the city over the next two years, a spokesperson confirmed. The flagship location address has not been revealed to the public at press time. Ells reportedly dished out $10 million of his own funds while raising over $36 million from investors, including Raga Partners, to launch the concept.
Unlike his first fast-casual concept, Kernel will be almost entirely operated by robots in order to reduce human interaction and chance of foodborne illnesses, the latter of which the corporation has had to pay about $25 million to settle between 2015-2018 alone, following at least five different outbreaks.
Rather than employing a dozen employees per location, the robots will allow the company to cut it down to three employees. Studies have shown that customers increasingly prefer less interaction with others at fast-casual concepts and convenience stores like Walmart, which has lent itself to the rise of self-checkout, online ordering via apps, and other automation technologies.
“We’ve taken a lot of human interaction out of the process and left just enough,” Ells told the Wall Street Journal. “The new system’s design [also] helps better ensure food safety.”
The debut of Kernel will reign in Ells’ return to the restaurant scene after stepping down as CEO of Chipotle in 2020, following nearly thirty years of running the fast-casual chain.
Other fast-casual chains such as Sweetgreen have hopped on the automation bandwagon after unveiling its first fully automated kitchen in Illinois earlier this year. Other smaller concepts such as Botbar Coffee in Greenpoint have also begun to implement similar technology.