An employee prepares a burrito bowl at a Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. restaurant in Hollywood, California, U.S. (Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg)  

Chipotle and Taco Bell Race to Win the Burrito Delivery-Time Battle

(Bloomberg) -- When it comes to restaurant delivery, speed matters. And the burrito chains want to be faster.

Taco Bell -- which now offers delivery at roughly two-thirds of its U.S. restaurants through GrubHub Inc. with plans to continue expanding the service -- says its average delivery time is 34 minutes. The company acknowledges that’s not good enough for today’s demanding customer.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., meanwhile, says it’s averaging between 28 and 32 minutes for delivery, but it thinks it can shave four minutes or so as it expands pickup shelves across the nation. It’s also introducing prepaid delivery so drivers don’t have to pay in stores. It’s all part of a digital push that is a key part of the comeback plan laid out under Chief Executive Officer Brian Niccol in his first year on the job.

Chipotle and Taco Bell Race to Win the Burrito Delivery-Time Battle

“When you’re hungry, you’re hungry,” Chipotle Chief Financial Officer Jack Hartung said in an interview. “They want the food right away.”

Speed has always been paramount to the big pizza chains. While Domino’s Pizza Inc. was founded on the 30-minute delivery standard, it has worked to get faster, CEO Ritch Allison said last month. Some of its restaurants are averaging 20 to 22 minutes in certain markets, he said, while the overall company average remains around 30 minutes. In the race for speed, Pizza Hut said in October it was testing a robot-operated mobile pizza factory in the bed of a modified Toyota Tundra.

While restaurant delivery has long been part of the culture in major cities like New York and San Francisco, pizza was often the only option in many markets. That has started to change as on-demand delivery services like DoorDash, Postmates and Uber Eats have proliferated, joining GrubHub to expand delivery options.

While customers typically spend more when they’re ordering online, the convenience push has created other challenges, namely making sure the food arrives in good shape.

“We want the food to be as hot and fresh as possible,” said Marisa Thalberg, Taco Bell’s Chief Brand Officer.

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