Chipotle founder Steve Ells eyes fast-food comeback with startup Kernel
Chipotle founder and former CEO Steve Ells is set to make a comeback to the fast-food industry with a new chain that uses plant-based food and robot technology. According to draft investor materials obtained by The New York Post, the startup will “fundamentally rethink labour, technology, real estate, and menu”, and use “automation with a human touch.” The materials include images of compact kitchens bursting with high-tech gadgetry, including robotic arms and conveyor chutes that require as few as three human employees to operate each outlet. The first Kernel outlet is said to be planned for late 2023 and will take up about 800 square feet, about one-third of the size of typical Shake Shack or Sweetgreen outlets. The launch could be backed by an investment round of $30m-$50m.
What is Kernel?
Kernel is a planned startup fast-food chain that uses plant-based food and robot technology to require only about three human employees to manage each outlet. The company claims to use automation with a human touch, and will operate a tech-heavy approach to food service to deliver good-tasting products at high speed.
Who is the founder of Kernel?
The founder of Kernel is Steve Ells, the former CEO and founder of Mexican fast-food chain Chipotle.
When will Kernel launch?
Kernel’s first store is expected to open in late 2023 in lower Manhattan, with talks underway to find the best location.
What kind of food will Kernel serve?
Kernel will serve a variety of cuisines, including salads, pasta, pizza, burgers, and acai bowls. Its proposed menu will include Greek, Chinese, Indian, Mediterranean, and Thai cuisines.
How many employees will Kernel need?
Each Kernel outlet will require as few as three human employees, as the company’s vision incorporates automation with a human touch.
What is Kernel’s plan for expansion?
Kernel plans to license its operating system, which will enable other businesses to use its technology. The company has not yet disclosed its full expansion plans.
Startup Kernel: Steve Ells, Founder of Chipotle, Aims for Fast-Food Revival
Steve Ells, the founder and former CEO of Chipotle, is reportedly planning to make a comeback into the fast-food sector with a plant-based, robot-powered chain that aims to operate with as few as three employees, anonymous sources told The New York Post. According to investor materials obtained by the publication, the new venture “fundamentally rethinks labor, technology, real estate and menu” and uses “automation with a human touch.” Kernel, the startup behind the concept, has already created mock-ups and photos of its compact kitchens, which feature three employee workstations surrounded by robotic arms, computer screens, and an array of slots and chutes for moving food through an assembly line. In addition to a self-funded initial phase, Kernel estimates the initial funding round could reach up to $50m. Its first store launch is anticipated for late 2023, and the company is in talks about different potential locations in lower Manhattan for the first store.