Mexican fast-casual chain Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) on Thursday said it had invested in autonomous-delivery startup Nuro. The chain’s latest advance into digital technology follows a year in which the coronavirus pandemic drove customers to online ordering. Chipotle stock fell.
Terms of the investment weren’t disclosed in a press release. The company did not immediately respond to a request for more details.
The investment is Chipotle’s first big one in a tech company since Brian Niccol took over as CEO in 2018. And it comes after Chipotle’s digital sales jumped 174% last year and comprised 46% of total sales.
Chipotle, in a press release, said it made the investment in an effort to explore “disruptive opportunities.”
“Nuro could change the traditional delivery model, and we believe consumers are going to continue to seek options and additional access points for how and where they enjoy their food,” Curt Garner, Chipotle’s chief technology officer, said in a statement.
Some restaurant analysts have said Chipotle stock was well-positioned to do business regardless of how the pandemic plays out.
Along with online ordering and delivery partnerships, it has expanded its restaurants with so-called Chipotlanes — its digitally oriented drive-thru lanes. The chain also has a second make line for digital orders. In November, Chipotle said it would open its first restaurant geared solely toward digital ordering.
As of last year, Domino’s test involved one vehicle in the Houston area. A representative for the pizza chain declined to say whether that partnership had changed in any way. But she said Nuro remains “an important technology partner.”
Shares ran higher through much of last year. But some analysts at that point began questioning whether any potential gains were already reflected in the stock price.
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