Chipotle on Tuesday announced the formation of Cultivate Next, a new venture which intends to make early stage investments into strategically aligned companies that further the company’s mission to “Cultivate a Better World,” it said.
Cultivate Next’s aim is to support seed to Series B stage companies that can accelerate the Chipotle’s strategic priorities such as running great restaurants, amplifying technology and innovation, further advancing its Food With Integrity mission, and expanding access and convenience for consumers. The new venture fund will have an initial size of $50 million and be financed solely by Chipotle.
“We are exploring investments in emerging innovation that will enhance our employee and guest experience, and quite possibly revolutionize the restaurant industry,” says Curt Garner, Chipotle’s chief technology officer. “Investing in forward-thinking ventures that are looking to drive meaningful change at scale will help accelerate Chipotle’s aggressive growth plans.”
Chipotle recently began testing an artificially intelligent robot, Chippy, to cook its tortilla chips, as well as radio-frequency identification (RFID) to trace and track ingredients in its restaurants. These steps are to both drive efficiencies and enhance the human experience.
Chipotle is also leveraging a new scheduling tool that uses machine learning to build more effective schedules and last year, made an investment in a leading autonomous delivery company, Nuro.
Companies interested in collaborating with Chipotle through the Cultivate Next new venture fund can apply by emailing CultivateNext@Chipotle.com.
Fueled by digital and continued growth (Chipotle opened 215 new restaurants in 2021 and 78 in Q4 alone), the brand’s total revenue last year upped 26.1 percent to $7.5 billion. Same-store sales climbed 19.3 percent and digital sales upped 24.7 percent (45.6 percent of the business).
In Q4, revenue rose 22 percent, year-over-year, to $2 billion, and comps hiked 15.2 percent. Digital sales, even against 2021’s skyrocket, ticked up 3.8 percent to 41.6 percent of sales ($811 million, with delivery mixing about 20 percent).
Chipotle’s full-year digital sales of $3.4 billion was nearly three-and-half times what it reported pre-COVID in 2019.