- Chipotle added drive-thrus to some locations, called Chipotlanes.
- I tried out the new Chipotlane in Canandaigua, New York.
- Chipotlanes are part of the larger trend of fast-food restaurants investing in drive-thru and digital technology.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Chipotle joined other fast food brands investing in drive-thru technology and online ordering with Chipotlanes. I visited one in Canandaigua, New York to document the experience.
By early 2019, Chipotle had 10 US Chipotlanes, and executives told Insider that they planned to open dozens more, while also investing in digital ordering. Chipotle’s digital sales exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic, making up more than half of sales in 2020. Now, the brand is investing in building more online-order only “Chipotlanes” and opening new locations. CEO Brian Niccol said in an earnings call that Chipotle plans to more than double its locations.
The expansion comes as fast-food and fast-casual brands across the country are optimizing drive-thrus. Drive-thru orders have grown across the fast-food industry since the pandemic closed many dining rooms. McDonald’s, already a drive-thru heavy hitter with 25,000 worldwide, says that 70% of sales in top markets are drive-thru orders. Even salad chain Sweetgreen is jumping on the trend.
Chipotle works on an assembly line type model, where customers move down the line of ingredients to choose what they want in a burrito or bowl. Chipotle locations also run a second assembly line behind the scenes dubbed the “digital make line” in 2019. That section is focused on making mobile and delivery orders, the kind that would make up business at a Chipotlane. With digital sales exploding, Chipotle announced plans to hire 10,000 new employees to handle digital sales this summer.
Here’s what it’s like to order from a Chipotlane.