Daily Insights

The Rise of Digital Dining

By: Mackenzie Baker | Nov 30, 2020

Chipotle rolls out a restaurant fit for the times that puts a spotlight on mobile ordering. The restaurant brand embraces its mobile app functionality with a new digital-only restaurant that allows users to only place orders virtually. The restaurant does not include a sit-down dining area or full-service line, but does feature pick-up and delivery areas. 

As restaurant delivery and pick-up demand surge during the Coronavirus pandemic, the new Chipotle Digital Kitchen seeks to sustain those sales by servicing only mobile and online orders. The initiative could enhance the guest experience without risking the diner’s safety during the pandemic. Though there is only one physical Chipotle Digital Kitchen location so far, Chipotle plans to expand the restaurants to more urban areas soon, as the restaurants could fit better in crowded areas that cannot support a full-size restaurant. The Chipotle Digital Kitchen could serve as an extension to the restaurant brand’s “Chipotlanes”, which features a designated drive-thru lane for customers to pick up their mobile orders. As not every location can service a drive-thru, Chipotle’s Digital Kitchen’s could fit the need for ease and convenience that customers seek. 

The rapid shift from in-person dining to home delivery earlier this year has left the restaurant industry reconsidering and renovating its locations. With the pandemic causing a prolonged need for delivery and pick-up, Chipotle’s Digital Kitchen could serve as a blueprint for other restaurants looking to meet consumer needs. Chipotle’s plan to open additional social-distancing friendly restaurants could prove that the future of restaurant dining is digital. The brand is joined by other leaders in the restaurant industry, including McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Wendy’s, which all have plans in the works to develop similar pick-up only locations and express drive-thrus. More multi-location restaurants could adopt a similar approach in the near future, particularly as mobile app orders and to-go fulfillment are poised to become dining mainstays, according to a Gartner report on the topic. As such, Chipotle’s Digital Kitchen could inspire more restaurants to go down digital avenues in a bid to boost sales and sustain engagement with consumers. 

Chipotle’s unique restaurant design signals a shift in the industry as it fights to recover from pandemic-caused casualties. As mobile app usage and delivery demand increases, Chipotle’s Digital Kitchen could suit consumer preferences and represent the restaurants of the future.