Movers & Shakers


This week we’ve counted down to our #1 pioneering champion Chipotle Mexican Grill, our top innovator for 2020. Having already positioned themselves for an off-premise strategy for 2020 prior to COVID-19, these plans were accelerated during the pandemic as they sought to rebuild their brand through digital advancements. It was fortuitous that Chipotle’s plan included a heavy focus on delivery and take-out.

Chipotle is known for its assembly line service and customizable options and last year they began developing concepts with drive-thru lanes. The company dubbed this new concept “Chipotlanes” and they began rolling out a plan to add drive-thru lanes to many of their existing restaurants and a host of newly developed stores. The lanes became critical when COVID-19 hit and entering restaurants was no longer feasible. Chipotle had already designed the drive-thru with mobile ordering in mind, which gave them a distinct advantage over the competition.

Chipotle was already a pioneer in the digital ordering space long before COVID-19 struck and they have only pushed the envelope further since March. Their online menu allows for the same customization experience as their brick-and-mortar locations which meant that customers were receiving the same quality of meal no matter how they ordered. The restaurant even offers contactless pickup at all dining rooms that have reopened. In March, competitors largely suffered due the chaos of establishing off premise delivery and the paring down of menus. Meanwhile, Chipotle has only expanded their menu and offered digital only specialty items to drive sales. The company is also experimenting with artificial intelligence for phone and mobile ordering. The software allows for a computer to capture some elements of a voice order while still involving human workers.

The chain’s innovations even expand into apparel and partnerships with delivery services. The already sturdy ordering system became a behemoth earlier this year due to a contract with DoorDash. Chipotle is also continuing its growth by launching its own line of clothing. The apparel is available digitally and represents the company’s drive to reinvent in any way possible. In addition, they are aggressively pursuing the purchase of other restaurants’ leases in a move for rapid growth.

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