Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc has invested in autonomous driving company Nuro’s series C round of funding in a move to help bolster its delivery network. Nuro uses driverless on-road robotic cars to deliver products to consumers.
SoftBank-backed Nuro raised $500 million in its latest round of funding. Woven Capital, a venture fund owned by Toyota Motor Corp, is the other investor in the company. The self-driving tech company had raised about $940 million from Softbank, the Japanese conglomerate, and Greylock Capital Management, an investment firm based in Stamford, Connecticut.
Last November, Nuro raised $500 million from a group of investors that included T. Rowe Price Associates, Fidelity Management and Research Co. and Baillie Gifford.
Neither Chipotle nor Nuro disclosed the terms of the deal.
“Early investments in digital innovation have provided a competitive advantage operationally with digital kitchens and the brand’s Chipotlanes,” the company said in a statement. “Now the organization is exploring disruptive opportunities outside of traditional third-party partnerships.”
Nuro already has agreements with Kroger, Walmart, and CVS wherein it delivers prescriptions and groceries in the Houston area.
Nuro uses Prius cars that are redesigned with its self-driving technology. It now has got permits to makes self-driving deliveries in the state of California.
Nuro’s $940 million money injection from SoftBank in 2019 raised its valuation to almost $5 billion.
For the fast-casual food chain, the investment in Nuro builds on its already strong digital operations that have been a standout in the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic and has helped Chipotle ride out the worst of the impact.
Brain Niccol, the CEO of Chipotle, took over the company in 2018, and this is the first “significant” investment that the food chain restaurant has made in a third-party technology business under his leadership, the company statement said.
“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,” said Curt Garner, Chief Technology Officer at Chipotle.
Nuro co-founder Dave Ferguson said that financial and strategic support from major companies like Chipotle will help Nuro Euro advance their technology and business both in terms of more customers and revenue.
Chipotle has been able to meet the Pandemic-led online food delivery demand by upping its digital presence. The restaurant said on Thursday that its digital business increased 174% year over year in 2020, almost half of which came from delivery.
Hence, the company said that their synergy with Nuro was organic.
Chipotle has been innovating with its menu and marketing strategies to stay ahead of the competition and give the ever-discerning, forever online customer some value additions.
Chipotle’s digital orders made up 46.2% of its sales in 2020. The company posted $2.8 billion in digital sales last year.