"The Digital Kitchen incorporates innovative features that will complement our rapidly growing digital business, while delivering a convenient and frictionless experience for our guests," said Curt Garner, chief technology officer of Chipotle, in a statement. "With digital sales tripling year over year last quarter, consumers are demanding more digital access than ever before so we're constantly exploring new ways to enhance the experience for our guests."
Chipotle’s fresh design concepts and menu innovation are unfolding at the company’s “Cultivate Center” in Irvine, California, which is located minutes from corporate HQ. The new 22,000-square-foot facility features the same natural ascetic with ecofriendly materials and designs found in Chipotle’s restaurants. To pay homage, the original sign from the first Chipotle, opened 1993 in Denver, sits atop the entryway.
The Center is also home to Chipotle’s official test kitchen and includes a production studio for filming commercials and developing creative concepts as well as a room for restaurant training and development. It’s home to the “Center for Excellence for Design and Construction” as well and houses a fully equipped development lab, metal cutting, and woodworking machinery to build and test new prototypes before roll out. Additionally, there’s a consumer research center to allow for focus groups. The conference rooms and event spaces are built for board meetings, group gatherings, and special events.
"The Cultivate Center is a best-in-class space that will allow us to push the boundaries of innovation while delivering on our mission of cultivating a better world," said CDO Tabassum Zalotrawala in a statement.
Given the COVID backdrop, it’s difficult to predict what’s next for Chipotle’s store formats. Last December, just based on digital growth, with no knowledge (obviously) of an impending pandemic, the company started to trial four new units of the following types: an urban store front, standalone restaurant with a Chipotlane pick-up window, and an endcap location with a Chipotlane. They will be located in Chicago, Cincinnati, and two stores in Phoenix. It also planned to pilot the fresh look in two retrofits in Newport Beach and San Diego, California.
So this was something on Chipotle’s mind before contactless and other COVID-supercharged trends entered the equation.