Chipotle finds a new way to keep customers in their cars

[image provided by Chipotle]
Image: Chipotle

The car has come to serve a role during the pandemic that we probably wouldn’t have predicted at this time last year: it’s a crucial barrier between the driver and the outside world, a tool for bubbling and separating from others as needed, a workaround that allows us some simple pleasures at a time when greater adventures have been tabled. It’s the means by which we’ve been able to enjoy state fairs and amusement park attractions this past year. And it’s increasingly becoming the way we acquire all our food. To that last point, Chipotle is the latest chain to assure us that we never have to leave our cars. The company has announced that it’s testing carside pickup at 29 locations in California, with plans to expand it nationwide later this year.


This is, by the way, different from Chipotlanes, which debuted a couple years back. Those mobile-order drive-thru pickup lanes still require the driver to approach the restaurant in some fashion. This latest carside pickup program, meanwhile, is also for mobile orders only—these folks really, really want you to download that Chipotle app!—but a Chipotle team member will bring the food directly to your car once you tap the “I’m here” button in the mobile app. (You also have the option of typing in the car’s make, model, and color to speed things along.)

“As our digital business evolves, we are continuing to explore ways to remove friction and increase access to our real food,” said Chipotle CTO Curt Garner in a press release. “Chipotle Carside unlocks a new, highly convenient pick up experience for guests from our restaurants’ parking lots.”

It makes sense that Chipotle would add new features and extra convenience for app users. “Since the pandemic began, one out of three new guests have tried Chipotle through digital ordering channels,” reads the press release. “In Q3 2020, Chipotle’s digital sales tripled year over year and accounted for 48.8% of sales for the quarter.”

And keeping us all in our cars seems like a safe bet, too. Imagine what Chipotle will save on utilities when 90% of each location’s square footage is just a parking lot.


Platypus Man

Am I the only one who never really feels comfortable with carside/curbside pickup? Like if I’m ordering from Chipotle or somewhere comparable, I feel guilty having a busy employee come outside into the cold (and sometimes rain/snow) just to bring me my dang burrito while I’m sitting on my ass in the car. Not only that, so many places need you to actually call them (so you have to find their number, which is almost never dedicated for pickups), an added inconvenience.

I get from a pandemic perspective keeping me in the bubble of my car is safer, but I’d still rather just park, put on a mask (you should have a mask on whenever they bring your food to your car too!), and walk inside to get it (preferable from a shelf or counter where I don’t need to interact with them anyway). Or I wish I could leave a bonus tip specifically for the person walking my order out.