Chipotle is getting into the drive-thru business, albeit with a nontraditional twist.
On Wednesday, CEO Brian Niccol said on a call with investors that Chipotle planned to open “a few dozen more” mobile-order pickup lanes, called “Chipotlanes.” Most of these will be at new locations, as opposed to adding the drive-thru lanes to existing stores.
Niccol explained that Chipotlanes functioned essentially as drive-thrus, with the major difference being that customers needed to place their orders on the Chipotle app or on an online form. After placing the order, customers are to pull up to a window at the specified pickup time, allowing them to pick up orders without leaving their car.
“Arguably, it will be the fastest way to [get] Chipotle — going through the Chipotlane,” Niccol said. Chipotle already has added Chipotlanes in 10 US locations. According to executives, adding the Chipotlanes helps boost both digital orders and overall orders. Additionally, Niccol said the Chipotlanes could allow Chipotle to experiment with different types of stores, potentially including those more focused on takeout.
Yelp photos of the San Antonio, Texas, Chipotle location with a drive-thru lane show a screen that says “Picking up an online or app order?”
Customers are instructed to drive “straight ahead to burrito bliss.”
When I went there was no line for the drive-thru,” one five-star review from February says. “I think word still needs to get out about it. It’s a very unique concept, they have two kitchens/prepping areas.”
Niccol emphasized that the the drive-thru lanes were still in their “early days” and that the company would test the new type of store through 2019.
The rollout of the lanes for mobile orders in 2019 comes as Chipotle is doubling down on digital sales. In the most recent quarter, digital sales grew 65.6%, accounting for 12.9% of the chain’s sales, the company reported on Wednesday.