Chipotle relies on drive-thru to increase efficiency

Chipotle Mexican Grill is going full-throttle down the digital drive-thru route.

The Newport Beach, Calif.-based fast food chain, which has 3,000 locations in five countries, shared a call with analysts Tuesday (April 26) to discuss the company’s first-quarter 2022 results that the Chipotlane concept, a store behind the wheel with a track dedicated specifically to digital controls, will play a central role as the brand opens new stores.

“Over 80% of new restaurants [will feature a] Chipotlane,” Chipotle CEO and Chairman Brain Niccol said on the call. “Our digital drive-thru pickup lane continues to be a customer favorite, providing customers with easier ways to access Chipotle.”

These locations allow the brand to meet more of the demand without being as labor intensive as those that rely on in-store sales and other types of off-site 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 are “driving[e] the productivity of our new store at record levels.

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

Read more: Loyalty programs are the best way to get customers to spend more

In recent months, Chipotle has announced a wide range of technology initiatives both consumer-facing and internally. The restaurant launched a promotion on the Roblox gaming platform that allows consumers to exchange in-game currency for real-world menu items.

See more : Restaurant brands open virtual storefronts to attract Gen Z consumers

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

Read more: Chipotle teams up with the Cash app for Guac surprise rewards

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

See more : Chipotle announces $50 million venture capital fund for ResTech startups

Internally, the restaurant chain has also begun testing an artificial intelligence (AI) autonomous kitchen assistant created by Miso Robotics dubbed “Chippy,” which cooks tortillas according to the brand’s recipe.

Read more: Chipotle is trying out the “Chippy” robotic kitchen assistant

The restaurant also piloted the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to improve inventory management efficiency and accuracy at approximately 200 locations in the Chicago area.

See more : Chipotle tests RFID technology

Going forward, one of the tenets of the brand’s digital strategy will be the increasing personalization of its digital ordering platforms through data collected 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 customer behaviors and make their experience with Chipotle more relevant to them,” Niccol explained. “We are constantly learning, evolving and optimizing to increase frequency with rewards members. We are pleased with the progress to date; I believe we will improve further over time.

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