This Is Why Chipotle Resisted Drive-Thru Service For So Long
The decision not to offer drive-thru service was a conscious one made by Chipotle’s founder, Steve Ells. Ells believed that the quality of the food was compromised when it was made in advance and stored in warming trays.
This goes against the company’s philosophy of using fresh ingredients and cooking everything on-site.
Another factor that contributed to Chipotle’s resistance to drive-thru service was the restaurant’s layout. Chipotle’s restaurants are typically located in urban areas and are designed to be open, inviting spaces where customers can enjoy their food in a relaxed atmosphere. Compare Chipotle’s menu, prices, and dining experience.
The company felt that adding a drive-thru would disrupt the flow of the restaurant and detract from the overall dining experience.
Lastly, Chipotle was also concerned about the environmental impact of drive-thru service. Drive-thrus are notorious for producing a lot of waste, from the packaging to the idling cars.
The company didn’t want to contribute to this problem and chose to focus on more sustainable practices instead.
Chipotle wanted drive-thrus to offer food customization
As it turns out, one of the main reasons Chipotle was hesitant to adopt a drive-thru-focused business was the cuisine. According to Investopedia, much of Chipotle’s success is due to customers witnessing the chain’s “food with integrity” inside the restaurants and personalizing their order as they want it.
You can’t see all of the ingredients up close at a drive-thru. Steve Ells, CEO of Chipotle, admitted in 2014 (via Business Insider)
that the company had considered drive-thrus and would not rule them out in the future, but that “part of what customers love is the ability to customize…and a drive-through distances them from that.”
According to QSR, what distinguishes Chipotle’s drive-thru approach from that of McDonald’s is that it is exclusively offered to consumers who ordered through the mobile app.
The software enables them to customize their orders in the same way as they would in a restaurant, addressing earlier company concerns. They then pay and select a pickup time, drive to a “Chipotlane” drive-thru, and grab their order as soon as they reach the window.
A Chipotle in Ohio, called the Chipotle Digital Kitchen, automates this process by only accepting digital orders and offering drive-thru or walk-up service. There is no dining room or place to eat inside, according to Nation’s Restaurant News.
The kitchen is completely dedicated to preparing orders tracked via the smartphone app — and clients can customize their cuisine.
Benefits of Drive-Thru Service
While there are certainly valid reasons for Chipotle’s resistance to drive-thru service, there are also some benefits that cannot be ignored. Some of these benefits include:
Convenience – Drive-thru service offers customers a quick and easy way to pick up their food without having to leave their car.
Increased sales – Restaurants with drive-thru service tend to have higher sales than those without it. This is because the service attracts customers who might not have visited the restaurant otherwise.
Efficiency – Drive-thru service can help reduce wait times, which can be especially important during peak hours.
Weather-proofing – In areas with inclement weather, drive-thru service can be a popular option for customers who don’t want to get out of their car.
The Turning Point
Despite its long-standing resistance to drive-thru service, Chipotle eventually caved in to customer demand. In 2020, the company announced that it would begin testing drive-thru lanes at select locations.
So, what changed? One factor was the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced restaurants to adapt to new safety protocols and social distancing measures. Drive-thru service provided a way for Chipotle to continue serving customers while keeping them safe.
Another factor was the changing preferences of younger consumers. Millennials and Gen Zers, in particular, value convenience and speed, and drive-thru service is seen as a major selling point.
FAQs- Chipotle Resisted Drive-Thru Service
No, Chipotle never offered drive-thru service until recently.
Chipotle resisted drive-thru service for so long because it wanted to prioritize the quality of its food and the customer experience.
Yes, the success of other fast-food chains’ drive-thru service and the increasing demand from customers influenced Chipotle’s decision to finally offer drive-thru service.
Yes, Chipotle’s commitment to sustainability and reducing waste played a role in its decision to avoid drive-thru service.
Yes, Chipotle conducted market research and found that there was a significant demand for drive-thru service among its customers.
No, Chipotle did not have to make any significant changes to its menu to accommodate drive-thru service.
No, Chipotle did not have to change its cooking methods for drive-thru service.
Yes, Chipotle had to hire more employees to accommodate the additional workload that comes with drive-thru service.
Chipotle ensured the quality of its food with the introduction of drive-thru service by implementing new protocols and training for its employees.
Yes, Chipotle’s drive-thru service positively affected its sales by increasing convenience for customers.