Chipotle is fixing one of its customers' top complaints

Chipotle says it’s addressing a top customer complaint by making online ordering much faster and more efficient.

Specifically, the chain says it will get rid of the long waiting period between ordering food and picking it up.

“When people place orders at Chipotle, there’s a very significant lag between when they place the order and when our restaurants allow them to come pick it up,” Chipotle co-CEO Steve Ells said Tuesday.

The company has traditionally let restaurants set that lag time. Now, Chipotle is rolling out a new “smarter pickup” technology that sets the lag time automatically based on each individual restaurant’s level of demand at any given time.

Many customers complain about the lag time in reviews of the company’s iPhone app. Lag time for Chipotle orders typically ranges between 20 minutes and 30 minutes, according to app reviews and our own experience.

We tried to order food through the company’s app from a Richmond, Virginia Chipotle at 2 p.m. on Sunday, and we were told it wouldn’t be ready for 30 minutes. At the time, we were across the street from the restaurant, so we went inside to order instead thinking it would be quicker. There was no line inside of the restaurant.

By comparison, Starbucks mobile orders during peak morning periods are typically ready 3-7 minutes after ordering, and Chick-fil-A prepares mobile orders immediately, as soon as customers arrive at the restaurant.

Chipotle’s new ordering technology “means that the customer is always presented with the shortest possible time between order placement and pick-up,” according to Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle’s chief marketing officer.

The technology will be rolled out nationally by January, he said.

Ordering inside the restaurant will also get easier soon, according to the company.

Chipotle is testing digital ordering tablets that will allow people to order and pay for their food without standing in line.

A team of workers will prepare those orders from a prep table in the back of Chipotle’s restaurants, to avoid bogging down the main preparation line. The second prep table will also be responsible for fulfilling online orders.

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