As it works through a new restaurant design, Chipotle is testing new walk-up and drive-thru windows for digital orders and pickups.
According to a CNBC article, the burrito giant will open around 80 restaurants with “Chipotlanes,” which is what they’re calling their drive-thru pickup lanes. It’s adding pick-up windows to new locations as well, but it’s not clear how many locations will include such windows.
Many legacy locations already have pick-up windows, intended initially for take-out orders, but the company shuttered numerous ones around the time traffic plummeted during a series of foodborne illness issues in 2015. But now, the company seems ready to lean real-world infrastructure around the convenience economy.
In the past couple years, Chipotle pushed hard on its digital infrastructure, investing in digital ordering, third-party delivery, catering and marketing of the new way to get burritos, bowls or salads. The work, supported by the second line that is in almost every Chipotle, paid off in spades. In third quarter 2019, the company reported a nearly 90 percent growth in digital sales, bringing the percentage of digital sales to about 20 percent.
“By better suiting our restaurants to accommodate the digital business, we’re able to finalize orders more effectively and provide a better overall experience for our guests,” said Curt Garner, chief technology officer.
For some comparison, Domino’s sees about 65 percent in digital sales in the U.S., as the delivery leader by far. Denny’s sees about 11 percent of its business being picked up or delivered, even after years of work to expand off-premises dining. So Chipotle hit a nerve with consumers and just happens to have food that travels really well.
“While we are staying true to Chipotle’s heritage, we are also excited to integrate new, innovative physical features into the restaurant that complement our growing digital business,” Tabassum Zalotrawala, Chipotle’s chief development officer, said in a press release.
How exactly this will work with third-party delivery drivers remains to be seen. The company said in a press release that such windows would decrease friction for delivery drivers, but whether they’re routed to the Chipotlanes or need to walk up to the pick-up window remains to be seen.
The new designs are being tested at four locations, including Chicago, Cincinnati and two locations in Phoenix. Additionally, the new restaurant design will be trialed in two retrofits in Newport Beach and San Diego. As part of its stage gate process, Chipotle will assess the performance of each restaurant for transactions, guest feedback, and ability to incorporate future menu innovations, among other metrics, before determining which design will roll out nationally.
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