Chipotle Mexican Grill has given consumers the power to order a bowl or burrito through multiple digital channels since Brian Niccol took over as CEO more than a year ago. Today, Chipotle adds one more frictionless channel: Alexa.
The Newport Beach, Calif-based fast-casual chain, whose digital sales grew 87.9% in its latest quarter, said it has enabled Amazon’s voice ordering assistant, Alexa, with the “Chipotle skill” for reordering food.
Once a Chipolte loyalty member links his or her profile to the Alexa app, they will be able to reorder their favorite to-go meal by saying: "Alexa, tell Chipotle to reorder my favorite for delivery." The feature is available for reordering favorite meals and can't be used to create new orders.
"We always strive to introduce additional access points in the Chipotle ordering experience and overall digital ecosystem," Nicole West, vice president of digital strategy and product management, said in a statement. "With this new skill for Alexa, our customers can get their favorite Chipotle orders delivered straight to their door in the most convenient way possible – all they need to do is ask."
In Chipotle’s latest quarter, digital sales accounted for 18.3% of total sales. Those numbers have soared over the past year as the fast-casual chain creates new ways to offer frictionless ordering for consumers. Last year, the Chipotle added direct delivery through its app, which has reached 7 million enrollments.
Another strategy: conversational AI, or artificial intelligence.
Earlier this year, Nation’s Restaurant News broke the news that Chipotle was quietly using conversational AI for phone orders at 1,800 units. Today, the brand said it has expanded the roll out of AI-powered voice assistants to all 2,500 restaurants.
“The system is designed to reduce friction in the restaurants so that customers can go through the entire ordering process effortlessly and employees can focus on providing the strongest possible guest experience in the restaurants,” the company said.
The company started testing voice AI on phone orders last year when they deployed it at 10 stores. When customers call a store, they are greeted by a female voice assistant that takes orders. She is not a dispassionate chat bot. She is actively listening and learning with each conversation. She upsells and makes suggestions to ensure order accuracy.
“The voice automation provides the option to pay ahead and the ability to skip the line and go straight to the digital pickup shelves or drive through the Chipotlane to collect the order,” Chipotle said.
Chipotlanes are pick-up only car lanes that the brand is piloting at some restaurants. Earlier this week, Niccol told CNBC that Chipotle plans to add Chipotlanes to half of the restaurants currently under construction.
To celebrate the Alexa reorder feature, Chipotle said it plans to give away Amazon Echo Dots to all of its existing Chipotle Rewards members named Alexa.
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