Chipotle Mexican Grill, with over 2,500 restaurants in the U.S., Canada, the UK, France and Germany, is testing a new restaurant design to better support its billion-dollar digital business. The evolved design will be trialed in four new restaurants of the following types: an urban store front, a standalone restaurant with a so-called “Chipotlane” in Chicago, Cincinnati, and two locations in Phoenix. The new restaurant design will also 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.
Chipotle, which pioneered the mobile ordering in 2008 has rapidly grown its digital ordering capabilities in recent years to include AI-enabled phone ordering, drive-thru pickup lanes and an Amazon’s Alexa-based reordering function. According to reports, digital sales now account for almost 20 percent of the company’s revenue, which increased by 15 percent overall in third quarter 2019. Digital orders increased by 88 percent compared to the same quarter the previous year, to almost $1 billion.
With Chipotle’s digital business increasing by leaps and bounds, new in-restaurant features are being installed to help reduce friction and increase convenience for customers and delivery drivers alike. Walk-up windows and premium placement for digital built in pick-up portals will allow customers to receive their food more efficiently than ever.
“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, in a company statement.
The new restaurant design will emulate Chipotle’s commitment to transparency. Open views and front row seating provide direct lines of sight into the kitchen, where crew members hand prepare fresh food with real ingredients every day. The openness of this design will aim to increase communication and foster a sense of community with the restaurants. Additionally, bottled beverages will be more accessible with a customer-facing reach in cooler built into the serving line.
“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,” said Tabassum Zalotrawala, Chief Development Officer of Chipotle, which is the only restaurant company of its size that owns and operates all its restaurants.