Investments & Acquisitions

NFL Stars Invest in Chipotle Founder’s Robot-Powered Meat-Free Restaurant

Kernel, the robot-powered meat-free restaurant concept created by Chipotle founder Steve Ells, has received funding from two star NFL players.

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (who is vegan) and New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones have both invested in the company, receiving equity stakes in exchange. The first Kernel restaurant is set to open in the Flatiron District of New York City on February 12, at 315 Park Ave South. It will initially focus on lunch, opening from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm.

Kernel previously raised $36 million in Series A funding in August; participants included Raga Partners, Willoughby Capital, Rethink Food, and Virtru.

Improved efficiency

Kernel aims to address inefficiencies in food service by using a semi-automated operational process, featuring a robotic arm to handle food preparation and a conveyor belt to move dishes through the kitchen.  Just three workers are said to be required to add the final touches and package the orders. The food will then be placed in cubbies to be collected by customers, who will order in advance via an app.

© Kernel

The restaurant will serve a meat-free fast food menu, including plant-based chicken sandwiches, burgers, salads, and more. Kernel aims to open 15 locations over the next two years.

Founder Steve Ells opened the first ever Chipotle restaurant in 1993, before expanding it to a national chain over a period of 27 years. He stepped down as CEO in 2017, and believes he is now “uniquely poised to create another industry-changing restaurant”.

Robots in the food industry

Ells is not the only one exploring the potential of robotics in the food industry; Quorn announced a partnership with robotics-powered kitchen company Karakuri last year to optimize the preparation of its meat alternatives in restaurant settings. Additionally, catering company Sodexo has teamed up with food tech company SavorEat to deploy a 3D printing robot chef at the University of Denver.

“By reducing waste and friction, we usher in significant improvements in hospitality, food quality, employee satisfaction, and restaurant economics,” says Kernel on its website.

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