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Brief Published: 27 Nov 2020

Chipotle Opens its First Digital-Only Restaurant

US fast-food brand Chipotle opened the doors to its first digital-only restaurant in New York last week. The move follows a sharp rise in online ordering thanks to Covid-19 stay-at-home restrictions issued by local governments, as well as many consumers’ overall reluctance to spend excess time in public places.

The Mexican joint’s digital sales more than tripled during the third quarter of 2019 (CNBC, 2020), providing clear impetus to ramp up its digital service offerings. Unlike a conventional Chipotle outpost, the new digi-centric establishment doesn’t include a dining room or a line for ordering. Instead, customers need to order in advance via the company’s app, website, or a third-party delivery platform.

Large orders are collected from a dedicated lobby in order to keep smaller orders flowing out in a timely fashion to waiting customers, who are able to watch dishes being prepared in the kitchen. The modest-footprint format will enable the brand to open more branches in urban areas where retail space comes at a premium.

This innovative rethink puts Chipotle in a leading position to continue serving consumers who prefer to dine at home, and desire quick and easy meal solutions. It also demonstrates agility during this fragile time for the foodservice industry – a scenario we unpick in The Dining Industry Pivots.

For more on how quick-service dining could evolve in the future, see Fast-Food Restaurants Speed Up the Drive-Thru and Fast-Food Restaurants Become Mini-Supermarkets. To explore innovative manifestations of dining for tomorrow’s hospitality space, see The Future Restaurant.