In case we needed any more proof that delivery is a trend and not a flyaway fad, Chipotle released its First Quarter 2019 results yesterday afternoon, and the biggest takeaway was that the fast-casual chain has doubled its digital earnings following multiple initiatives focused on fulfilling off-premises orders faster.
Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol said on the earnings call that digital sales grew 101 percent year-over-year in the first quarter, totaling $206 million during that time and representing 15.7 percent of all sales. Chipotle is averaging about 1 million digital transactions per week, Niccol said.
Clearly, Chipotle’s eager embrace of technology and off-premises is paying off. The company started accelerating its digital efforts around summer 2018, when digital sales accounted for just 8.8 percent of Chipotle’s sales nationwide. Under Niccol’s direction (he joined as CEO in February 2018), the company has since digitized its second make line to speed up fulfillment of delivery and takeout orders, added self-service pickup shelves to roughly 1,000 of its 2,500 stores, and launched a rewards program this past March.
While none of these things are especially new in the world of food and food delivery, Chipotle’s aggressive moves to either implement or improve them over the last several months does show us that early adoption can sometimes garner huge returns. That’s encouraging news for other restaurants, especially considering a new report from earlier this week that highlighted the doubts and fears businesses have around keeping up with restaurant tech. If Chipotle can show the kinds of successes to be made from digital initiatives, others may follow.
Nowhere is that more true than with delivery, which has quickly gone from “nice to have” to “must have” status for most restaurants. On the earnings call, Niccol noted that delivery is a key driver of Chipotle’s digital growth, and the company will continue to “increase access” to that channel throughout the rest of 2019.