Chipotle opens its first digital-only restaurant as online orders soar

A customer wearing a protective mask enters a Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. restaurant in San Francisco, California. .

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Chipotle Mexican Grill will open the doors to its first digital-only restaurant on Saturday.

Unlike a traditional Chipotle location, it will not include a dining room or a line for ordering. Customers have to order in advance on Chipotle’s app, website or third-party delivery platforms.

The new restaurant design is meant for urban areas, where real estate is more expensive and a full-size restaurant isn’t possible, but the first location will open in Highland, New York, just outside of the gates of West Point.

The design will also be able to accommodate large catering orders, which will have their own entry and lobby for pick-up.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated customers’ shift to ordering online, pushing Chipotle to try to optimize the experience as much as possible. In the third quarter, the company reported that digital sales more than tripled, and CEO Brian Niccol said that total digital orders could exceed $2.5 billion this year, more than double last year’s total.

The crisis and its shock to the restaurant industry has pushed other companies to rethink their designs as well. Burger King and Shake Shack are among the restaurants that plan to add drive-thru lanes reserved for delivery drivers or online orders. Starbucks is now planning to build more mobile pickup cafes this year and in 2021 than it previously thought. 

Shares of Chipotle, which has a market value of $34.8 billion, have risen 67% so far this year.

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