Chipotle Follows in Uber’s Footsteps With Omnichannel Innovation


With its recent digital initiatives, it seems that Chipotle is setting itself up to be the Uber of food commerce. Where Uber began as a ride-hailing app and expanded its business to include an expansive suite of mobility-related services, so too is Chipotle growing its reach beyond the traditional purview of the fast-casual category to meet consumers in more parts of their daily routines.

Take, for instance, the Chipotle Goods line of merchandise, which launched in the summer of 2020. The company sells apparel, accessories, and even a soap, most with only vague tie-ins to the restaurant arm of the business. So far, the direct-to-consumer (D2C) online shop appears to be a relatively small part of Chipotle’s business, with its sales not even appearing in the company’s third-quarter earnings report, but the line provides a foot in the door, as it were, for Chipotle to expand its brand. With the goods shop’s focus on sustainability and on wellness-oriented items such as activewear, the line offers an entry point for the brand to engage with consumers in terms of their values and in the course of their overall wellness routines.

In fact, PYMNTS research finds that the brands that will succeed going forward are those that can engage consumers in more of their daily routines: how they work, pay and are paid, shop, eat, bank, travel, connect with others, have fun, stay well and live. By reaching consumers across more of these pillars of the ConnectedEconomy™, Chipotle has the opportunity to deepen engagement and loyalty.

The brand is also making moves to reach consumers wherever they may be in a more literal sense, investing in technology to make its delivery business more feasible in the long run. In March, the company announced an investment in autonomous delivery, backing robotic vehicle company Nuro, with Curt Garner, the restaurant’s CTO, commenting on the opportunity to “provide innovative solutions for increasing access and convenience for our guests.”

See also: Chipotle Invests In Driverless Delivery Company Nuro

Moreover, these initiatives to make the brand more accessible to consumers are not limited to the physical spaces in which they find themselves. In June, the brand became the exclusive restaurant partner for streaming service Twitch, and in late October, Chipotle announced a virtual location in the digital world of gaming platform Roblox.

Plus, in all these digital and physical spaces, the company is looking to reduce the friction on the path to purchase, making the way they order increasingly resemble the ways they interact with non-commercial parts of their lives.

“AI and automation can play a really cool role in enhancing the customer experience moving forward,” Nicole West, vice president of digital strategy and product at Chipotle, told PYMNTS in an interview. “We’re testing ways that customers can engage with the brand can order and can receive customer care via messaging services, via chatting through Pepper [the restaurant’s chatbot assistant] on our mobile app or website, and [we’re] beginning to play around with voice automation as well.”

Related news: Chipotle: Brands Can Drive Loyalty Without Bearing the Cost of Freebies or Discounts

Relatedly, the chain has been accepting resumes on TikTok, appealing to the younger generation that typically fills entry-level service jobs, making even staffing processes look more like people’s other daily digital routines.

Additionally, the chain has been looking to grow the value that its reward program provides beyond points per dollar, recently increasing flexibility with its rewards exchange and adding gamified features to encourage consumers to spend more time on the platform.

Read more: Chipotle Aims to Convert Its Majority In-Person Customer Base to Omnichannel with Loyalty Investments

“Offering new ways to engage with Chipotle is essential to the ongoing evolution of our digital business,” the brand’s chairman and CEO Brian Niccol told analysts on a call in late October. “We are pleased with our progress to-date but believe with ongoing investments and further leveraging of data-driven insights, we can get even better.”