Chipotle updating stores to accommodate digital customers

Chipotle is getting a makeover as the restaurant focuses its attention on digital orders.

The popular Mexican food franchise will be testing restaurant designs as the brand looks to bolster its billion-dollar digital business, the company announced in a recent press release.

Walk-up windows, digital order pick-up portals, and other in-restaurant features with an eye toward making it easier for delivery drivers and customers to order from their phones and computers are being installed to make the restaurants more efficient, chief technology officer Curt Garner said in the press release.

"By better suiting our restaurants to accommodate the digital business, we're able to finalize orders more effectively and provide a better overall experience for our guests," Garner said.

The franchise’s new design is meant to capture the brand’s 'commitment to transparency,' with open views into the restaurant’s kitchen area, where customers can watch crew members prepare their food in real-time, Tabassum Zalotrawala, Chipolte's chief development officer, said. Bottled beverages will be easier to access for customers as well, with a reach-in cooler being installed into the serving line, according to the company.

Zalotrawala states that the openness of the brand’s restaurant design will help to increase communication amongst customers and employees while creating a sense of community within Chipotle restaurants.

"While we are staying true to Chipotle's heritage, we are also excited to integrate new, innovative physical features into the restaurant that complement our growing digital business," Zalotrawala said. "Our eco-friendly, natural aesthetic and locally sourced approach to this design builds on our strong brand values and mission of cultivating a better world."

As the company renovates its restaurant to accommodate the designs, Chipotle will be assessing the performance of each restaurant for customer feedback, transactions and the capacity to incorporate future menu items before deciding which aspects of the designs will be applied to locations nationwide.

The franchise has good reason to invest more in its digital offerings, as digital sales totaled $206 million in fourth quarter, and the company had an average of more than a million digital transactions a week, according to QSR Magazine.

The updated store designs will be tested at an urban storefront location in Chicago, and a location in Phoenix equipped with a Chipotlane, the franchise’s drive-thru lanes. Meanwhile, two retrofit restaurants located in San Diego and Newport Beach will also be used to test the digital friendly designs, according to the company.