Chipotle Leans on Drive-Thru to Boost Efficiency

Chipotle Mexican Grill is going all-in on the digital ordering drive-thru lane.

The Newport Beach, California-based fast-casual chain, which has 3,000 locations across five countries, shared on a call with analysts Tuesday (April 26) discussing the company’s first-quarter 2022 earnings results that the Chipotlane concept, a drive-thru store Format a lane dedicated specifically to digital orders, will play a central role as the brand opens new stores featuring.

“More than 80% of new restaurants [will feature a] Chipotlane,” Chipotle CEO and Chairman Brain Nicol said on the call. “Our digital order drive-thru pickup lane continues to be a favorite among guests, giving customers more easy ways to access Chipotle.”

These locations enable the brand to meet a greater portion of demand without requiring as much labor as those that rely on in-store sales and on other kinds of off-premise orders, such as delivery. Chief Financial Officer Jack Hartung noted that the performance of these drive-thru stores “continues to be strong,” and that these locations “drive[e] our new store productivity to record levels.”

Research from PYMNTS’ 2022 Restaurant Friction Index, created in collaboration with Paytronix, found that 49% of restaurants offer the ability to pick up orders at the drive-thru. Plus, the Index also found that 35% of consumers said that drive-thru pickup options would encourage them to purchase from restaurants.

Read more: Loyalty Programs Best Way to Get Diners to Spend More

In recent months, Chipotle has been announcing a wide range of tech initiatives both consumer-facing and internally. The restaurant debuted a promotion in gaming platform Roblox that enables consumers to redeem in-game currency for real-world menu items.

See more: Restaurant Brands Open Virtual Storefronts to Appeal to Gen Z Consumers

It also announced a partnership with Cash App to roll out a $100,000 guacamole giveaway.

Read more: Chipotle Teams With Cash App for Surprise Guac Rewards

And it announced the formation of a venture capital fund to invest $50 million in Series B stage companies creating restaurant technology solutions or other products and services in line with Chipotle’s goals.

See more: Chipotle Announces $50M Venture Fund for ResTech Startups

Internally, the restaurant chain also began trying out an artificial intelligence (AI) autonomous kitchen assistant created by Miso Robotics dubbed “Chippy,” which prepares tortilla chips according to the brand’s recipe.

Read more: Chipotle Tries Out ‘Chippy’ Robotic Kitchen Assistant

The restaurant has also been testing out the use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to boost inventory management efficiency and precision at about 200 locations in the Chicago area.

See more: Chipotle Tries out RFID Technology

Going forward, one tenet of the brand’s digital strategy will be the increasing personalization of its digital ordering platforms via data gathered through its loyalty program.

“We continue to leverage our CRM sophistication by focusing more on personalization and using predictive modeling to trigger journeys that can influence guest behaviors as well as make their experience with Chipotle more relevant for them,” Niccol explained. “We are constantly learning, evolving and optimizing to drive more frequency with rewards members. We’re pleased with the progress to date; I believe we will get even better over time.”

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