NEWPORT BEACH, CALIF. — Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., has created Chipotle Digital Kitchen, a new store format driven by its surging digital business.
The fast-casual chain will open its first digital-only store in Highland, New York, on Nov. 14. The restaurant has no dining room or customer-facing service line, and guests will order in advance through the company’s website, mobile app or a third-party delivery platform. Orders will be picked up in a lobby designed to include the sounds, smells and kitchen views of a traditional Chipotle restaurant, with a separate entrance and lobby for catering orders.
“The Digital Kitchen incorporates innovative features that will complement our rapidly growing digital business, while delivering a convenient and frictionless experience for our guests,” said Curt Garner, chief technology officer of Chipotle. “With digital sales tripling year-over-year last quarter, consumers are demanding more digital access than ever before so we're constantly exploring new ways to enhance the experience for our guests.”
Digital sales at Chipotle were up 202.5% in the third quarter ended Sep. 30, accounting for nearly half of all sales.
The new Digital Kitchen concept will allow Chipotle to enter more urban areas that would not support full-size restaurants and adds flexibility with future locations, the company said.
Chipotle last year said it would test several digital-focused store designs. Prototypes include walk-up windows for picking up digital orders and pick-up shelves near the front entrance. The company also is ramping up Chipotlane rollouts and recently opened its 100th drive-thru pick-up lane.
Other restaurant chains also are experimenting with digital-only formats during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Starbucks announced plans to roll out more locations for mobile orders next year. Chili’s parent Brinker International, Inc. launched It’s Just Wings, a virtual restaurant, in all its outlets across the United States. The virtual restaurant operates exclusively through a partnership with DoorDash and is expected to reach $150 million in sales in its first year.