- Chipotle will begin offering quesadillas as a digital-only menu item on Thursday, according to a press release.
- The company originally tested the quesadilla as a digital-only offering last summer in Cleveland and Indianapolis.
- Chipotle previously offered quesadillas on its kid's menu both in-store and digitally, and would offer in-restaurant quesadillas by customer request. The regular quesadilla was not listed on in-restaurant signage or on Chipotle's website or app until now, however, a Chipotle spokesperson said. This marks the first customizable entree menu addition since it introduced salads 17 years ago.
Within the last two years, Chipotle has tested and launched several new items and limited-time offerings under CEO Brian Niccol's leadership. Prior to Niccol joining the company, Chipotle didn't make many menu changes. The chain's strategy is to introduce one to two new products each year. Since 2018, the company has been using a stage-gate process, which allows the company to pilot a new menu item or initiative in a test market to gain a better understanding of customer and team member feedback and whether it would work within the entire system.
In November, Chipotle began testing smoked brisket in 64 restaurants in Cincinnati and Sacramento, California, two months after it brought back carne asada. In January 2019, it added Lifestyle Bowls to its online menu and earlier this year, the company added cilantro-lime cauliflower rice.
The addition of different products allows the chain to draw in new customers.
"I know our brand is stronger from an awareness standpoint for what we stand for. I know the brand is stronger from a trust standpoint. I know the brand is stronger, when it comes to our menu innovation, as well as our approach to culinary," Niccol said during the company’s Q4 2020 earnings call.
Offering quesadillas could boost Chipotle's digital sales, which grew significantly over the past year. In 2020, digital sales were $2.8 billion, an increase of 174.1% year-over-year, according to an earnings release. Last year, the company also added enhancements to its digital channels, including unlimited customization, contactless delivery and group ordering, Niccol said during the earnings call. The company also began piloting carside pickup in late January in 29 California restaurants, and opened its first digital-only restaurant in late 2020.
Other chains have added digital-only menus items as well. Sweetgreen launched a menu format in September called Collections that offers products curated around themes or specific dietary needs. Chains like Bloomin' Brands, Chili's, Denny's and Applebee's have also launched delivery-only brands that function out of their existing kitchens.