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You can't order food at Chipotle's new drive-thrus

Illustration for article titled You cant order food at Chipotles new drive-thrusem/em
Photo: Scott Olson / Staff (Getty Images)

It’s been a rough three years for Chipotle, which still hasn’t recovered from its 2015 food-safety issues. Sales are down, consumer confidence hasn’t recovered, and to put it plainly, all is not well in burritoville. But the company has a new idea it thinks might help send things in a more positive direction. That direction is around the building, in a kind of half loop.

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CNBC reports that Chipotle is actively looking to get into the drive-thru scene, though not in a way you might expect. These drive-thru lanes, which are already available in five stores—two in Ohio, one each in Tennessee, Texas, and Massachusetts—are intended for pick-up only. That means there’s no giant glowing menu with a microphone you have to shout at. If you want to use the Chipotle drive-thru, you have to order through the app or online. You’ll then get a designated pickup time, and when you arrive, Chipotle hopes to make the process as painless as possible.

“Convenience is king,” David Henkes, managing partner at Technomic, told CNBC. “The challenge is in logistics. If you don’t do it well, you are going to essentially turn off more customers than you are bringing in.”

For Chipotle, that means adding things like dedicated parking spaces for mobile users who arrive before their order is prepared and texting customers when the meal is ready to be picked up.

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To be honest, we at The Takeout were prepared to roll our eyes at this a bit, but it actually makes sense. Online ordering can be off-putting for some if there’s no dedicated pickup location, and it’s not unusual for people who’ve ordered ahead to end up waiting in line anyway. Making it even easier to grab your burrito bowl and vamoose seems like a pretty winning strategy.

CNBC notes that the rollout of this program is contingent on Chipotle locations that, you know, have room for a drive-thru. Curt Garner, Chipotle’s chief digital and information officer, told CNBC that the company is making space a priority as it hunts for new locations: “As we are looking at our real estate pipeline, part of the criteria that has been introduced is to understand how many of those sites might lend themselves to that experience, even if we don’t open them immediately with [the mobile lane] enabled.”

A drive-thru Chipotle (Drive-Thr-otle?) is expected to open in Virginia by the end of 2018.

Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!

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DISCUSSION

This seems like a bad idea. I mean, it’s a good idea, but I think it will confuse people. The line will be full of people who didn’t order ahead, because that’s not how they’re used to using a drive-thru, and employees will spend most of their day explaining that no, this is not that kind of drive-thru, this is a new kind of drive-thru, please get out of the line and stop yelling at me. But maybe the people who run this huge company are smarter than me; maybe they’ve thought of how to deal with that.