Chipotle introduced it’s opening a brand new “Digital Kitchen” restaurant this month in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio (about 40 miles south of Cleveland) — which can solely settle for on-line orders.

The prototype location will provide its pickup-only drive-thru “Chipotlane,” some outside seats and tables for consuming (no eating room), and a walk-up window. Hungry prospects ought to keep away from knocking on that pickup window anticipating to have their order taken. As an alternative, order on-line or on the Chipotle app after which verify again on the window or roll as much as the drive-thru.

Think about begging the Chipotle employee on the window to allow you to get a number of drips of this magical kicker of a sauce.
Picture: Tabasco

Chipotle says that there are about 300 restaurant places with a drive-thru window already, which solely accounts for about 10 p.c of all its burrito procuring locations. Ought to this prototype digital kitchen retailer achieve success, we are able to most likely count on to see fewer eating rooms with soda stations, and say goodbye to DIY smoked chipotle Tabasco sauce utility (as of proper now, you possibly can’t choose this sauce within the order system).

Chipotle may run into points with prospects making an attempt to take orders on the window, solely to be turned away to go order on-line. So long as the restaurant appears like a Chipotle, which is a spot individuals count on to line up and construct a burrito, there’s going to be some confusion. It could possibly be helpful for Chipotle to visually differentiate its digital kitchen extra and lean into being a ghost kitchen, from which the corporate appears to be borrowing a little bit of the concept.

The idea of ghost kitchens, an online-only digital restaurant that has no customer-facing location, has gained in reputation. Ghost kitchens like MrBeast Burger have operated out of eating places that want one other income in the course of the pandemic. The idea has additionally developed into kitchens operating out of transport containers and parking heaps. A ghost kitchen is, by design, solely going to ask on-line supply orders with no prospects making an attempt to knock on doorways.

Chipotle drive-thru places are nonetheless fairly scarce, solely one in every of seven places close to the Rutherford, New Jersey space have it.

Though not a ghost kitchen, ideas like Chipotle’s Digital Kitchen are popping up in all places on this pandemic world — together with new spots for Jack within the Field, Del Taco, and Taco Bell. In an effort to follow social distancing, extra persons are ordering meals on-line, utilizing supply companies, and hitting the drive-thrus. Chipotle’s Chipotlane places are additionally rising to accommodate this, and one simple method to try this is to take over buildings that have already got a drive-thru.

This North Bergen, New Jersey Carl’s Jr. was completely closed and is now a “Chipotlane” restaurant.
Through Apple Maps Look Round

No less than one location I discovered in North Bergen, New Jersey was once a Carl’s Jr., however now it’s a Chipotlane. Chipotle will most likely proceed to do that — new eating places with Chipotlanes apparently have 15 p.c greater gross sales than ones with out — till they will output beans and guac practically as quick as Taco Bell can, maybe additional risking burnout for its employees.

“Taco Bell Defy” has 4 drive-thru lanes, three for supply companies. Orders are made on-line.
Picture: Taco Bell

Taco Bell, the not too long ago alternative-meat snubbing fast-food chain, introduced in August its first “Taco Bell Defy” location in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota that’s solely a four-lane drive-thru. The brand new places may have an upper-level kitchen that sends digital orders down by way of a carry with none human contact. Three of these 4 lanes are additionally devoted to supply companies — whereas Chipotle will likely be sharing simply the one with each DoorDash kind supply companies and common prospects.

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