Thanks in part to its partnership with DoorDash—along with its mobile and website ordering capabilities—digital sales at Chipotle grew 99 percent year-over-year in 2019’s Q2, accounting for 18.2 percent of all sales in the quarter. To make its away-from-restaurant dining more seamless and quicker than ever, the company has rolled out a number of innovations over the past year and a half—the first of which, pick-up shelves, use very little technology at all. Customers simply order via the Chipotle app or website, come into the store, and grab the bag labeled with their name off the shelf. Not only does it enhance the pickup experience for customers, but it also speeds up delivery time for third-party couriers.
“With the installation of the shelves, we’ve made those last 10 feet really frictionless,” West says.
Firehouse Subs unveiled a similar system-wide program last year in an attempt to capture the business of on-the-go guests. “We’re not fast food, so our whole process for making a sub is more artisan,” CEO Don Fox says, adding that each sandwich takes about three minutes to create. “Guests loved the food, but if they were pressed for time, we may not fit their criteria on a given day.” But thanks to the Rapid Rescue To Go program, customers can place their order online and pick it up from a rack by the door without the need to wait in line for their items to be made.
In addition to pick-up shelves, many fast-casual concepts faced with soaring digital-order volumes are also choosing to explore an avenue in which fast-food brands have long excelled: drive thrus. Earlier this year, Chipotle began testing “Chipotlanes” in select stores, where guests can pick up app or website orders without leaving the comfort of their car. Similarly, Mediterranean fast casual CAVA launched its first digital drive thru—called the Pickup By Car model—in April, with plans to roll it out in five locations by the end of the year. “We’re presenting the line experience digitally and still giving guests that pleasant experience they have when they’re in a CAVA restaurant, but bringing it to a more on-the-go format,” says CAVA spokeswoman Chelsea Grieco. (More on fast casuals turning to drive thru)
Another off-premises area undergoing digital transformation? Catering. Thanks to companies like ezCater—an online catering marketplace that follows the format of delivery sites like Grubhub and Seamless—brands are finding it easier than ever to meet the demand for catering (or even to offer it in the first place).
“[Data shows] that catering revenues are growing 50 percent faster than the growth rate of the overall restaurant industry,” says ezCater director of marketing David Meiselman. Because catering often comes with a larger average order size, he says, it naturally provides a higher profit margin for brands. “When you have incremental revenue in catering, it’s an even bigger boost to your bottom line because those orders tend to be more profitable dollar for dollar than smaller consumer orders.”