Chipotle Mexican Grill introduces digital-only restaurant

Less than a year after introducing prototype stores geared for its growing digital business, Chipotle Mexican Grill has created a new format store fueled by the brand’s soaring digital business: Chipotle Digital Kitchen.

The Newport Beach, Calif.-based fast-casual chain said the new restaurant, opening Saturday in New York, is the company’s first digital-only store. It has no dining room or customer-facing food assembly line.

The test store will fulfill orders made through the brand’s app, website or third-party delivery marketplaces. The company, whose digital sales were increasing even before the pandemic, said the small-format store allows the company to enter more urban areas and other non-traditional locations.

The store features a separate entrance and pick up area for catering.

“The Digital Kitchen incorporates innovative features that will complement our rapidly growing digital business, while delivering a convenient and frictionless experience for our guests,” Curt Garner,  chief technology officer, said in a statement. “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.”

The store opens Saturday in Highland Falls, N.Y., near the famed West Point Academy.

In December 2019, the company said it would be testing store designs that cater to the brand’s growing digital business.

One store prototype in Chicago features a walk-up window for picking up digital orders. Other new design features include Chipotlanes, modern furniture and pick-up shelves near the front entrance.

The company said the new digital-only store has been in the pipeline since prior to the current health crisis.

“As part of our objective to make Chipotle more accessible and convenient, the digital kitchen has been an integral part of our innovation pipeline prior to the pandemic,” company spokeswoman Erin Wolford said.

In its latest quarter, digital sales at Chipotle grew 202.5% and accounted for 48.8% of sales. About half of the company’s digital sales come from delivery orders. The company works with third-party delivery companies and offers delivery through its app. DoorDash fulfills those orders through its last-mile delivery program.