Diners cannot enter this new Chipotle location

Photo courtesy of Chipotle Mexican Grill

Chipotle Mexican Grill will open its first pick-up and delivery-only restaurant, with no dining room or front-line facing customers, later this month in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, the fast casual announced Thursday.

The new prototype, dubbed Chipotlane Digital Kitchen, is an important decision for the chain, which has seen explosive growth in its digital business during the pandemic.

The space-saving store will feature an advance order pickup lane, as well as a walk-in window and patio seating.

Just over a year ago, Chipotle opened its first digital kitchen in Highland Falls, New York. In this unit, diners can place digital orders from inside a lobby “with the sounds, smells and kitchen views of a traditional Chipotle restaurant,” a spokesperson said. said by e-mail.

The new Chipotlane digital kitchen, however, does not have interior access for guests.

“Chipotlanes are a key growth strategy for the brand,” Tabassum Zalotrawala, Chipotle’s director of development, said in a statement. “Our portfolio of approximately 300 Chipotlanes operates with the highest margins across all areas, so we continue to evolve our restaurant design with formats such as the Chipotlane digital kitchen to better meet our growing digital business. . “

Chipotle introduced Chipotlanes in early 2018 and quickly discovered that it was a major growth driver, with significantly higher check averages than other order channels and no potential margins impacted by delivery by customers. third. The chain has built up drive-thru quickly, adding around 200 in the past 18 months. Of the 41 new locations opened in the third quarter, 88% included a Chipotlane, the chain reported in October.

CEO Brian Niccol said at the time the chain was testing small stores with drive-thru to bolster other high-volume Chipotle locations and give diners another point of access.

New restaurants with Chipotlanes opened with around 15% more sales compared to non-drive-thru restaurants opened during the same period, the company said.

The pandemic has made consumers more accustomed to ordering through digital channels for take out and delivery. Over the past year, a number of chains have released prototypes without a dining area or with significantly reduced seating.

Portillo’s, known for its sprawling dining rooms, said last month that it intends to downsize its dining rooms in the future to keep up with consumer trends. The fast casual plans to open a pickup-only location this winter with three drive-thru but no indoor dining.

Shake Shack, which was largely focused on the in-store experience before the pandemic, recently opened its first drive-thru and plans to open 10 more next year.

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