Nation’s Restaurant News

Lisa Jennings | Dec 16, 2021

Chipotle Mexican Grill on Thursday unveiled plans for its first digital prototype restaurant with a drive-thru and walk-up pickup window.

The move comes as the Newport Beach, Calif.-based chain executes its goal of roughly doubling in size in North America, from almost 3,000 units to about 6,000, using a growing variety of formats. The company has been aggressively growing its drive-thru-focused Chipotlane locations, which have demonstrated about 15% higher sales than traditional units.

Dubbed the Chipotlane Digital Kitchen, the new prototype is scheduled to open later this month in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. It will bring together the features of a Chipotlane with that of an all-digital unit that was tested in Highland Falls, N.Y. last year.

“Chipotlanes are a key growth strategy for the brand,” said Tabassum Zalotrawala, Chipotle’s chief development officer, in a statement. “Our portfolio of approximately 300 Chipotlanes perform with the highest margins across the board, so we continue to evolve our restaurant design with formats such as the Chipotlane Digital Kitchen to best suit our growing digital business.”


The new unit will bring together the features of a Chipotlane with that of an all-digital unit that was tested last year.

The new Chipotlane Digital Kitchen is smaller than a traditional drive-thru unit with no dining room or front production line. The kitchen is equipped with a make line to receive digital orders through the app or website, as well as through third-party delivery marketplace partners.

Guests and delivery drivers can collect their orders through the drive-thru or a walk-up window. The restaurant also has a small outdoor patio for on-site dining.

Growing digital sales remains a key focus for the brand. In October, CEO Brian Niccol said year-to-date digital sales were close to $2.7 billion, at that point nearing the $2.8 billion in digital sales during 2020, when restaurants were closed for indoor dining due to the pandemic.

To further enhance the convenience of online and app ordering, Chipotle officials said the chain has reconfigured 12 of its existing restaurants to feature a digital order pickup lane, which has also boosted digital sales.

The company is also working to improve digital-order throughput times. In October, Niccol said the time from digital order to pickup was less than 10 minutes, down from 12 minutes earlier this year.