In the Fast Lane: Chipotle’s Winning Less-Touch, No-Wait Plans

Bill Dickinson and Melissa Webb 07/17/2020

Here at Rappaport we have been putting together a series of blogs highlighting the incredible efforts and innovations of retailers who we believe are leading by example in how they are adjusting to the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. We recently published our first in the series, featuring 7-Eleven’s evolution concept stores.

This week, we turn the spotlight on Chipotle. The Mexican takeout giant who is demonstrating how to adjust, to pivot on a dime, to boost sales in tough times, and uphold safety standards.

Faster pickups

In a lucky – or smart – twist for the brand, Chipotle actually began beefing up their digital and low-touch side of the business prior to the Coronavirus pandemic. Recently they introduced the “Chipotlanes” concept, which are drive-thru lanes dedicated to mobile orders placed on their app – and this has proved a boon in the social-distancing days of 2020.

As MarketBeat.com reports, “before the coronavirus, Chipotle had said it would try to include Chipotlane in 50-60% of its new stores” but recently the CFO said he expects this number to be higher. Q2 20 results are still forthcoming but investment analysts think they will show good growth on the back of the new lanes, customer loyalty, and mobile ordering.

Chipotle also innovated into social media channels like social ordering. For example, from June 2020, you can now place your order via Facebook Messenger by talking to its “concierge bot” on the platform. Chipotle also launched a “group ordering feature” on its e-commerce site.

Food trends for 2020

Research from JP Morgan shows that pizza and burritos are “king” in a coronavirus world of takeout and deliveries. Analyst John Ivankoe told Barron’s that a well-known pizza brand and Chipotle Mexican Grill have survived the reshuffle of the restaurant landscape. And, he says, he anticipates that they will carry on with positive sales numbers in 2021. “Thanks to their strong digital presence and low-cost delivery platforms”, including the mobile apps and partnerships with delivery start-ups like DoorDash, UberEats, and – recently announced – GrubHub.

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Cleaning up good

It is indicative of many good moves from the company under relatively new leadership of CEO Brian Niccol. Research firm Ipsos recently shared its Consumer Health & Safety Index research. For this, Ipsos mystery shoppers conducted in-store visits at over 5,700 retailers across the U.S. – reports Restaurantdive.com this week – and “assessed which brands were successfully implementing health and safety measures and which were not”.

The article continues: “Employees at 90% of the Chipotle locations visited were consistently wearing masks, while 83% of locations included employees wearing gloves. Further, 49% of Chipotle’s locations have hand sanitizer available at the entrance and 82% have hand sanitizer available in restrooms. The industry average for the latter metric is just 24%.” 

These results mean that Chipotle ranked as the top restaurant brand for health and safety compliance during COVID-19.

Good gifting

Finally, Chipotle also started an e-gift card program, designed to support the graduates of 2020. This is part of a Graduation Gift Card Give Back program, which sees them donating (and matching) 10% of special graduation-themed e-gift card purchases to Scholarship America, an organization that works directly with students, parents, colleges, businesses, and communities to help students fulfill their college dreams. In a press release, Chipotle’s Chief Marketing Officer Chris Brandt said: “It’s been a rollercoaster year for many of these seniors, and they certainly deserve something extra for all their accomplishments.” The company supports many causes and initiatives, in areas like education, LGBTQ+ issues, and racial equality.

Chipotle Mexican Grill

We at Rappaport have watched Chipotle’s efforts and are proud to be associated with the brand as they navigate a tricky path back to reopening with grace and goodwill.


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