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Chipotle promises to cut pick-up times in half

Fast-casual chain rolls out digital ordering system

Chipotle Mexican Grill is promising to cut pick-up times in half with the roll out this week of a new digital ordering system. 

The new “Smarter Pickup Times” technology allows the Denver-based chain to process more digital orders without disrupting service or throughput, the company said Monday.

In tests, the new system reduced wait times for digital orders by as much as 50 percent, and increased the total number of digital orders to record levels, while keeping restaurants from being overwhelmed during peak times, officials said.

The roll out includes a new more-responsive web platform at, and mobile apps, though which guests can reserve a future pickup time. 

In addition, restaurants have added an extra make line in the back of restaurants to allow digital orders to be prepared without disrupting service on the main customer-facing production line.

“Smarter Pickup Times enhances this capability by dynamically scheduling orders and generating accurate wait times based on the current volume of orders,” said Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle’s chief marketing and development officer, in a statement.

 “This allows us to prepare more digital orders while simultaneously improving the customer experience.” 

The chain is also testing digital ordering kiosks in restaurants to also help speed throughput.

An eroding customer experience has been a pain point for the 2,200-unit chain as it struggles to regain traffic after a series of foodborne illness outbreaks in late 2015. Average unit volumes fell to $1.9 million in 2016, compared with $2.5 million in 2014, before the crisis hit. 

For months, company officials have been talking about improving Chipotle’s digital ordering as one solution.

“We have been evaluating all of our digital offerings with an eye toward removing friction,” said Curt Garner, Chipotle’s chief information officer, in a statement. “That started with a redesign of our website to make it more responsive to whatever device a customer is using — a computer, tablet or smart phone — followed by online catering and additional out-of-store payment options, and continues with the completion of our Smarter Pickup Times initiative.”

To support the roll out, Chipotle is running a marketing campaign to drive digital orders that includes in-store promotions, social media advertising, search optimization and digital ads.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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