Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise in demand for fast-food take-out has skyrocketed. In response, "dark" or "ghost" kitchens have begun to crop up around the country—restaurants that only cook food for collection and delivery—and Chipotle is the latest to hop on the bandwagon.
This upcoming Saturday, the Mexican restaurant chain will be opening the doors of its first "digital-only restaurant" called the Chipotle Digital Kitchen. The establishment is located in Highland Falls, New York.
Unlike its sister stores, this Chipotle will not have a dining room or front-service line. Instead, customers order via the Chipotle website, app, or a delivery partner like DoorDash.
Customers will be able to collect their order from a lobby that has, according to the chain, "all of the sounds, smells and kitchen views of a traditional Chipotle restaurant." The kitchen will also have the capacity to serve large catering orders through a separate lobby.
"Consumers are demanding more digital access than ever before, so we're constantly exploring new ways to enhance the experience for our guests," said Curt Garner, the chief technology officer for Chipotle.
Between June and September, digital sales have tripled for the restaurant when compared to this time last year. This "dark" model will allow Chipotle to open establishments in areas where a full-sized restaurant isn't an option.
Stores across the globe have been concentrating their efforts on digital takeout and delivery orders in order to offer contact-free services.