Want more Chipotles in America? You'll have to give up your seat. News broke last July that Chipotle was thinking of building "really small" versions that nixed seating in favor of a more streamlined, take-out friendly format. Quartz writes that Chipotle-lite is closer to becoming a reality.
Currently the chain operates 1,700 full-scale outlets, but "it sees room for 4,000" of the smaller locations. Chipotle believes that people are moving away from a dine-in culture and more towards a take-out system, so these restaurants make sense. They also require "less investment upfront" than the $800,000 it costs to build a regular store.
While the smaller locations are expected to bring in less money per location, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The smaller investment allows Chipotle to open locations in smaller markets, where a large investment would not make sense. Most of the chain's locations required a lot of real estate "to house" big lunch- and dinner-time crowds. Plus, they require a large staff "to cook the food and keep the line moving."
Quartz points out that "not every town can support a location with the kind of traffic Chipotle has grown used to at its full-size restaurants." Another advantage of the smaller locations is that it means an increased number of Chipotles in a given area, which could ease the lines at other locations nearby. The chain already has a few of these Chipotle-lites in Europe and plans to try out these stores in the U.S. while continuing to open full-size locations.
Chipotle isn't the only major chain experimenting with smaller, more streamlined restaurants. Starbucks announced that it plans to debut a "speedier" concept in New York City. The "express" stores will feature a "limited food and beverage menu." Plus, the chain is now rolling out an order- and pay-ahead feature on its mobile app, which it believes will speed up service.