Brian Niccol, CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill. 

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

The drive-thru has existed for decades, but Chipotle Mexican Grill‘s modern spin is helping the restaurant chain top its fast-food competitors’ speed.

“It takes us all of 12 seconds to get you your food when you pull up in your car because you’ve already paid in advance and made the whole order,” Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol said at CNBC’s Evolve Summit in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

The Mexican food chain is planning to put “Chipotlanes” in half of the restaurants currently under construction, and the chain plans to open between 150 to 165 new locations in 2020, with more than half including a Chipotlane.

QSR Magazine’s annual drive-thru survey found that fast-food chains’ drive-thru times have slowed in 2019, despite some chains’ efforts to slim down their menus to speed up service. On average, customers spent more than four minutes from speaker to order window, the survey found.

Chipotle is able to keep its drive-thru times fast by restricting its Chipotlanes only to digital orders, which also happen to be the most profitable type of transaction for the company.

In recent quarters, the chain has spurred growth by focusing on digital sales. During its third quarter, digital sales, which include delivery, grew 87.9% and accounted for nearly a fifth of Chipotle’s revenue.

“We’ve given people what they want: more access and faster access,” Niccol told CNBC’s Kate Rogers.

Chipotle’s stock, valued at $21 billion, is up 79% so far this year. Shares rose less than 1% during afternoon trading Tuesday.

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