Ordering at Chipotle

Here’s a way to increase the ordering line throughput at Chipotle y 10-20%: educate customers how to order.

Nobody seems to know how to say their order in way that doesn’t cause confusion and slow down the ordering process.

For example, if you order, “A chicken burrito with white rice and black beans,”you will likely need to confirm that you ordered a burrito and be asked again what kind of rice, beans and meat you would like.

Long ago, McDonald’s discovered that they could make food faster than customers could order from an ala carte menu.

A smart franchisee looking for a way to get more cars through his drive-thru lane at lunch innovated a simple tool to fix the problem: Value Meals.

Most people intuitively think Value Meals was a bundling to save customer’s some money and maybe get more people to order fries. It may have had those benefits, but its main purpose was to get more cars through the drive thru.

It’s quicker to say, “#1 with Diet Coke and a #2 with iced tea,” than to order each sandwich, fries and drink separately. Multiply that over a few hundred transactions per restaurant per day and thousands of restaurants and you get a lot more dollars in the register.

From what I gather at Chipotle, the process is set up to order one ingredient at a time. Though that isn’t intuitive to customers.

So, instead of saying, “Chicken burrito with white rice and black beans.” Say, “Burrito”. Then wait to be prompted for type of rice, beans and meat.

A good designer could build that process into Chipotle’s menu board to encourage that ordering process.

Here are a couple other tips for Chipotle.

Another issue seems to be how many orders a single person has. The de facto assumption by the burrito makers is that they are ordering one plate. So, they often go to the next person in line after you have ordered one thing, then you have to tell them that you aren’t done.

Perhaps, the burrito maker can ask you, how many meals are you ordering?

One last thing, when one person is ordering multiple meals,  it might be helpful for the burrito assembly line to put a marker at the start and end of an order, like the little rubber markers that go on the checkout belt in grocery stores.

Without those, each person in the assembly line is left to figure out where an order starts and stops, which takes up more time and causes more confusion. More than a few times, I’ve seen it where a plate had to be remade because inattentive customers and burrito makers put the stuff on the wrong plate.


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