Digital Kitchen Concept Nixes Dining Rooms and Front Service Lines

Chipotle Mexican Grill last week announced its first-ever digital-only restaurant, the Chipotle Digital Kitchen. Located outside of the gates to the military academy in Highland Falls, New York, the restaurant opened Saturday, Nov. 14, for pick-up and delivery only. The prototype will allow Chipotle to enter more urban areas that wouldn't support a full-size restaurant and allows for flexibility with future locations.

The Digital Kitchen concept is focused on accelerating the digital business in non-traditional locations, the company said. It is unique because it does not include a dining room or front service line and guests must order in advance via, the Chipotle app, or third-party delivery partners. Orders can be picked up from a lobby that is designed to include all of the sounds, smells and kitchen views of a traditional Chipotle restaurant. The Digital Kitchen will also service large catering orders available for pick up in a separate lobby with its own dedicated entry.

The newly unveiled concept is the latest new model from a quick-service chain to address the challenges and new consumer trends created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Other chains, including Burger King and Taco Bell, have announced new models in recent months that are similarly focused on online ordering and contactless service. The move toward these new types of models will create demand for new types of equipment and represent an emerging opportunity for foodservice equipment dealers and distribtuors.

“The Digital Kitchen incorporates innovative features that will complement our rapidly growing digital business, while delivering a convenient and frictionless experience for our guests,” said Chief Technology Officer Curt Garner. “With digital sales tripling year over year last quarter, consumers are demanding more digital access than ever before so we're constantly exploring new ways to enhance the experience for our guests.”