Chipotle’s Mobile Payments / Order-Ahead Numbers Spiking

May 24, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

One of the biggest lessons the mobile payments community had to learn was how to avoid being a victim of its own success. We saw this in grand style at Starbucks, who learned that offering mobile payments and mobile order-ahead was a great plan, at least until those customers hit the counter to get their drinks. Now, Chipotle is discovering that mobile payments can be a headache, but it’s also got a plan to make the lines flow more smoothly.

A report from PYMNTS revealed that Chipotle has already pared down its processes, which is a huge step. Customers formerly had to wait about 45 minutes for an order to be ready for pickup, but now, that number is down to about 12 minutes. Impressive enough, but that’s in an environment where mobile orders are up 41 percent from 2017 to 2018. That’s almost a tenth—8.8 percent—of sales, so it’s clear that trimming better than two-thirds the prep time is something of a minor miracle.

What did Chipotle do to achieve these results? First, Chipotle added a second “make line”, where ingredients wait to be built into various foods. The second line is devoted to mobile and online orders only, so it takes the strain off the physical line. The second make line also has its own LCD screens where each ingredient is displayed to show what should be next, and light-up ingredient bins to show exactly where to go next.

Naturally, there’s still a limit as to how many orders can be processed, so Chipotle added a “choose your pick-up time” option to make sure there was a buffer involved. It’s popular with customers—they know just when to pick up the order—and with staff who’s no longer overwhelmed.

After all the hardship Chipotle endured over the last couple years, from data breaches to disease scares, seeing them do something so right is almost gratifying. Chipotle has clearly thought the process through, start to finish, and built something so sound that it should ultimately become the gold standard for every other order-ahead operation out there.

Mobile payments and mobile order-ahead don’t always come without problems. Advance planning, though, can take care of many of these. Just ask Chipotle when you’re picking up your next burrito.