- Chipotle announced Thursday the chain is testing carside pickup at 29 California restaurants, according to a company release. Diners can select "Carside Pickup" at checkout through the Chipotle app to use the service at participating locations.
- Once the order is confirmed, diners will be prompted to park in a space as close to the restaurant as possible, open the Chipotle app and tap an "I'm Here" button and wait for a Chipotle employee to bring the order to the car. Customers can also select their vehicle type, color and make in the app.
- Carside pickup builds on a growing suite of digital ordering options, including group ordering through the Chipotle app, Facebook Messenger bot, mobile pickup at Chipotlanes and the chain's first Digital Kitchen in Highland Falls, New York. These offerings have strengthened the chain's digital business, which the company expected to exceed $2.5 billion by the end of 2020.
Since the start of the pandemic, one out of three new Chipotle customers have accessed the chain through digital ordering channels, according to the release. The Mexican chain's most recent earnings report, for Q3 2020, shows that Chipotle's digital sales tripled year-over-year to make up 48.8% of sales for the period — momentum that should position the company to sharpen its competitive edge in 2021.
The investment in a form of curbside pickup aligns with current trends, as diners expect curbside and in-store pickup to become standard offerings in 2021, according to a Rakuten Ready survey. Though the channel isn't new by any means — Applebee's has offered carside pickup since 2005 — the pandemic has sparked rapid adoption of curbside amenities because they offer diners a way to obtain their food with little contact with servers or customers and allow restaurants to capture off-premise sales without having to cede a percentage of these transactions to third-party delivery companies.
A report from SeeLevel HX and Bluedot finds that 40% of diners are using curbside pickup more often than they did prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, a behavior that is likely fueled by a growing number of restaurant chains entering this game. Last fall, Starbucks announced that it had added curbside pickup to 800 stores in the U.S. and planned to expand the offering to 2,000 locations in 2020, for example. The National Restaurant Association's State of the Industry 2021 report also found that curbside takeout was one of the least capital-intensive initiatives operators could launch during the pandemic, and that eight out of 10 operators in fine dining, family dining and fast casual added curbside takeout in 2020.
Restaurants are working to reduce friction in the curbside pickup experience, as well. Darden Restaurants CEO Gene Lee told investors during the company's Q1 earnings call in September that the company is adding geofencing to its stores to make curbside pickup less work for its diners.