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12/16/2021

Chipotle opening second digital-only store concept

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Chipotle Mexican Grill is launching a new format called “Chipotlane Digital Kitchen” in Ohio.

The fast-casual restaurant chain is opening the first prototype of the Chipotlane Digital Kitchen concept in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. The new design offers a “Chipotlane” drive-thru window and walk-up window for more efficient digital order pickup. The restaurant is scheduled to open later in December 2021.

The Chipotlane Digital Kitchen footprint is smaller than a traditional Chipotlane store, with no dining room access for customers or a front line. The kitchen is equipped with a make line dedicated to digital orders placed through the Chipotle app and website, as well as third-party delivery partners.

Customers and delivery drivers can collect their digital orders through the Chipotlane drive-thru or walk-up window. The new restaurant will also offer outdoor patio seating for customers to eat their meals on site.

Since launching the format in early 2018, Chipotle says new restaurants featuring a Chipotlane open with approximately 15% higher sales compared to non-Chipotlane stores opened during the same period.

In addition, Chipotle introducedits first-ever digital-only restaurant, called the “Chipotle Digital Kitchen,” in November 2021. Located just outside of the gates to the military academy in Highland Falls, N.Y., the new prototype, which was designed in-house, does not include a dining room or front service line. 

Chipotle Digital Kitchen orders can be picked up from a lobby that is designed to include all of the sounds, smells and kitchen views of a traditional Chipotle restaurant. The digital-only location will also service large catering orders available for pickup in a separate lobby with its own dedicated entry. The retailer’s digital sales tripled year over year during the second quarter of fiscal 2021.

The company said its new digital-only concept is focused on accelerating the digital business in non-traditional locations. It also will allow Chipotle to enter more urban areas that wouldn't support a full-size restaurant and provide flexibility with future locations.  

With nearly 3,000 restaurants currently and a long-term goal of having 6,000 locations in North America, Chipotle has to date reconfigured 12 of its existing stores to feature the digital order pickup lane, with these locations seeing an increase in sales as more customers choose this access channel.

"Chipotlanes are a key growth strategy for the brand," said Tabassum Zalotrawala, chief development officer, Chipotle. "Our portfolio of approximately 300 Chipotlanes perform with the highest margins across the board, so we continue to evolve our restaurant design with formats such as the Chipotlane Digital Kitchen to best suit our growing digital business."

Chipotle had nearly 2,900 restaurants as of Sep. 30, 2021, in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, and is the only restaurant company of its size that owns and operates all its restaurants.