Chipotle is opening its first 'dark' restaurant, which will only make food for collection and delivery

ReutersFILE PHOTO: Signage for a Chipotle Mexican Grill is seen in Los Angeles
  • Chipotle is opening its first “dark” kitchen Saturday. The “digital-only” restaurant won’t have a dining room: It’s for collection and delivery only.
  • The restaurant is next to a military academy in Highland Falls, New York.
  • Customers can collect their order from a lobby that Chipotle says will have “all of the sounds, smells and kitchen views of a traditional Chipotle restaurant.”
  • Chipotle says the new restaurant concept will allow it to open sites in towns and cities where a full-size restaurant isn’t viable.
  • During the pandemic, demand for fast food take-out has soared, and dark or “ghost” kitchens, which cook food purely for collection and delivery, are on the rise.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

During the pandemic, demand for fast food take-out has soared. As a result, “dark” or “ghost” kitchens, which cook food purely for collection and delivery, are on the rise — and Chipotle is the latest chain to join the trend.

On Saturday, the Mexican chain is opening its first “digital-only restaurant” called the Chipotle Digital Kitchen, it announced Wednesday.

The restaurant is in Highland Falls, New York.

It has no dining room or front-service line. Instead, customers order in advance via the Chipotle website, the Chipotle app, or a third-party delivery partner such as Uber Eats.

Customers can collect their order from a lobby that the fast food chain said will have “all of the sounds, smells and kitchen views of a traditional Chipotle restaurant.”

The kitchen will also serve large catering orders through a different lobby, Chipotle said.

Chipotle’s digital sales tripled between June and September compared to the same time last year, it said.


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The new model will allow Chipotle to open outlets in towns and cities where a full-size restaurant isn’t viable, the company said.

Ghost kitchens also allow chains to cut expenses by allowing them to explore a new area, or build their delivery capacity, without the cost of opening a new restaurant.

“Consumers are demanding more digital access than ever before so we’re constantly exploring new ways to enhance the experience for our guests,” Curt Garner, Chipotle’s chief technology officer, said.

All Chipotle restaurants already have a separate kitchen solely for deliveries.

Because of this, the company had previously decided not to partner with ghost kitchen companies, Chipotle executives said last year.

“We have 2,450 or 2,500 dark kitchens,” chief financial officer Jack Hartung told Business Insider in November 2019. “It’s a second make line.”

Chipotle has also opened a new 22,000 square foot site, called the “Cultivate Centre,” close to its corporate headquarters in Irvine, California, where it will test new dishes, film commercials, and develop new restaurant design concepts, it said.

Throughout the pandemic, restaurants and grocery stores have increased their focus on online orders, as customers favour convenience and contact-free service.

Last month, Kroger announced plans to open dark kitchens that will deliver meals within 7 minutes of being prepared, and 30 minutes of being ordered.

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