Chipotle Adding Flat-Screen Panels to Speed Burrito Production

(Bloomberg) -- Even burritos are going high tech.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. is spending almost $10,000 a restaurant to add flat-screen panels that will allow workers to fulfill off-site orders more quickly, according to Chief Digital and Information Officer Curt Garner. The move will improve the additional production lines -- dedicated to digital, online and catering orders -- that Chipotle has added to supplement the front lines that serve in-store diners.

With the new screens, which are already in place at 300 locations and will grow to 900 by the end of the year, employees see images of an order’s ingredients, instead of words, and labels are printed automatically instead of handwritten. The new system makes it easier and quicker to train workers, and orders are more accurate, according to Garner.

“It’s so much more intuitive and easier,” Garner said in an interview. “We can make orders much more quickly for folks. We don’t overload the restaurant.”

The investment comes as restaurants race to outdo rivals in the surging food-delivery market. Taco Bell, KFC and McDonald’s are all now offering the service in some capacity, while Panera Bread has built its own network with 13,000 drivers. Chipotle, meanwhile, is eager to prove it can recapture growth under its new chief executive officer, Brian Niccol.

Chipotle has said about 8.8 percent of orders go to its second production lines. The chain is working to boost its delivery capabilities -- in April it announced a partnership with DoorDash Inc. to add the service to 1,500 restaurants. It also delivers at some locations through Postmates Inc. and Tapingo.

The burrito chain is considering doing delivery itself in areas where third-party services aren’t available, Garner said. Chipotle, which has about 2,400 restaurants, is in talks with additional delivery partners, he said.

“It is such a rapidly evolving marketplace particularly now that Uber and Amazon and others are getting in,” he said, referring to new moves by those companies to capture growth in the delivery market. “We’re continuing to keep a very close eye on what’s happening and understanding how we can rapidly shift our strategy.”

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