Burritos of the future.
Even as restrictions have loosened and fast food restaurants have reopened their dining areas (though usually at limited capacity), customers still aren’t really into the idea of eating in close-quarters with strangers. This is why take-out services, both provided by the restaurants themselves and third-party services like Uber Eats, are still all the rage, and why many fast food chains have begun restructuring to accommodate the change in norms. The latest addition to this paradigm shift is Mexican chain Chipotle.
On Saturday, Chipotle opened their very first “digital-only” location in Highland Falls, New York. On the surface, its layout doesn’t seem especially different from a traditional Chipotle location, but there are three major alterations. First, there’s nobody at the register. In fact, there isn’t even a register. As the title implies, the only way to order food from this Chipotle is to pay online. There are employees working in the back, but they’re not permitted to take orders. Secondly, there’s no dining area. Rather, there’s a long bench in the center of the store where customers can sit and wait. They can’t eat there, though; once they have their food, they gotta skedaddle and make room. Finally, instead of the single countertop most Chipotles leave orders on, there’s a three-decker shelf. This way, more orders can be placed out at once without cluttering the counter.
“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,” said Curt Garner, Chipotle’s chief technology officer, said in a statement.
Chipotle chose this particular location due to its close proximity to West Point military academy. The school is full of hungry cadets craving Chipotle, but didn’t have one nearby. The smaller design of the digital-only store also allows it to be more easily slotted into existing real estate, which should make it easier for the chain to establish their presence further.