Chipotle is debuting its first digital-only restaurant this week.
The fast-casual food chain will open the doors to its new store in Highland, New York, just outside the gates of West Point military academy, this Saturday. It’ll handle only pickup and delivery orders, which must be placed in advance via the Chipotle website, its app, or third-party platforms, such as Uber Eats. The space will host no dining room or food service counter, but according to Chipotle it will still have the “sounds, smells, and kitchen views of a traditional Chipotle,” courtesy of an open-faced design, in case you were craving the clanging pots and pans along with your burrito bowl.
The pared-down store model—dubbed the Chipotle Digital Kitchen—was developed mostly for urban areas, where real estate is more expensive and full-sized restaurants less viable. But Chipotle executives chose rural Highland, New York, to test-drive the new model because of its “captive” consumer base of hungry military cadets, according to CNN.
The Chipotle pivot to digital also jives with the pandemic, which accelerated the consumer shift to online ordering while putting the brakes on indoor dining.
“With digital sales tripling year over year last quarter, consumers are demanding more digital access than ever before,” Chipotle chief technology officer Curt Garner said in a statement.
CEO Brian Niccol forecast that total digital sales could exceed $2.5 billion this year, more than double what they were last year.
Unsurprisingly, Chipotle is not the only chain following the digital trend. Coffee giant Starbucks has announced it will roll out more cafés for mobile orders only this year and next, and the parent company of Chili’s, Brinker International, recently launched a virtual restaurant, It’s Just Wings, which is expected to bring in $150 million in its first year.
Chipotle stock is up nearly 4% since the news, and nearly 51% year to date.