ORLANDO, FLA. — While some fast-casual competitors admit to struggling with speed of service, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. considers its throughput a “huge advantage.”
The Denver-based burrito chain refined operations a few years ago with a four-pillar strategy.
“While there might be 90 or 100 things we could list that would speed up throughput at Chipotle, these four are by far and away the most important, and until we have those four really nailed, it doesn’t pay to think about anything else,” said Monty Moran, co-chief executive officer, during a Jan. 14 presentation at the Integrated Corporate Relations XChange in Orlando.
First, Chipotle has what it calls an “expediter” stationed between the person rolling burritos and the cashier to address additional customer needs.
“It’s that person’s job to get you a drink or to determine whether it’s for here or to go and put it in a bag and help you out with any other needs,” Mr. Moran said.
Second, a “linebacker” must be available to replace utensils or ingredients and clean the counter.
“The linebacker is someone who walks behind our entire crew and makes sure that they don’t ever need to turn around or to be distracted but they can focus their attention on the guests the entire time,” Mr. Moran said.
The third pillar is ensuring every item and ingredient is in its proper place prior to the beginning of a rush period.
“If we do that really, really well, it obviously allows our labor that we already have to be looking at the customer, paying attention to the customer and rolling burritos and making food rather than turning around and being distracted,” Mr. Moran said.
Finally, Chipotle makes sure it has its “aces in their places” during peak hours.
“(That) essentially means that during our peak hour of lunch, which is typically 12:00 to 1:00, and during our peak hour of dinner, which is typically 6:00 to 7:00, we have the right people in every position who are experts in that position so they can deliver superior customer service to our customers, so there’s no one training, for example, during that hour on the line,” Mr. Moran said. “There’s no one who’s new to a position at that time. If we’re going to train people or help someone who’s new to the position get better, we’ll put them in at 3:00 in the afternoon or 4:00 in the afternoon until they become an expert.”
With all four priorities fulfilled, the difference in speed of service is “staggering,” he said.
“Our best restaurants, or I should say our fastest lunchtime throughput restaurants in the United States, deliver more than 350 transactions in an hour, sometimes substantially more than that,” Mr. Moran said. “And that’s more than three times faster than our average restaurant would accomplish, and so we know we have a lot of room to get faster.”
Faster throughput drives additional sales because customers learn to trust in the speed of service at Chipotle and may increase their visits, he said.“Over the last couple years, we’ve sped up an awful lot,” Mr. Moran said. “I think in the third quarter we announced that we were six transactions faster at lunch and five at dinner… And so we’ve made some really great gains on throughout, and I think that you should expect that we will continue to speed up on throughout because there is so much more wood to chop in that regard.”