Chipotle today announced it is testing a design prototype for its stores aimed at further growing the chain’s billion-dollar digital business.
According to a Chipotle press release, the new digital-centric store design will be trialed in the following different Chipotle store formats: an urban storefront, a standalone restaurant with a Chipotlane, and an endcap restaurant with a Chipotlane. So far, the chain has stores in Chicago, IL, Cincinnati, OH, and Phoenix, AZ set to test the new design. It will also retrofit two existing stores in California.
“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,” Curt Garner, Chief Technology Officer, said in a statement.
The new store model will integrate longtime pieces of existing layouts, such as an open views of make-lines in the kitchen, with more recent changes the chain has made to accommodate the uptick in digital and delivery orders. That includes dedicated pickup shelves for digital orders, second make-lines meant to fulfill meals for delivery, and more Chipotlanes.
In case you hadn’t guessed, Chipotlanes are a big part of that strategy. Unlike traditional drive-thru operations, those of Chipotle are designed specifically for digital orders. You cannot simply drive up to a menu board and order on the spot from a Chipotlane. Instead, customers order ahead via mobile and only use the window to pick up their food. Third-party delivery drivers can use this feature as well, saving themselves the trouble of having to walk into the store and locate their order.
On Chipotle’s Q3 earnings call this past October, CEO Brian Niccol said the chain expects a total of 60 Chipotlanes by the end of 2019, though some of these new openings may shift into Q1 of 2020. Additionally, of the 150 to 165 new restaurants Chipotle plans to open in 2020, about half will include a Chipotlane.
Whether by drive-thru, pickup shelves, or some other method, restaurant chains giving their stores makeovers for the digital-ordering era is a major strategy right now. Just yesterday, we wrote that Shake Shack is opening a new NYC location that will emphasize digital ordering and delivery. Starbucks, Krispy Kreme, and a boatload of others have already made similar moves.
As to how widespread Chipotle’s new design prototype will expand, the chain said in the press release it will asses the performance of each of the four new locations before deciding when and where to roll the concepts out nationally.