How Chipotle's Investment in Digital is Paying Off

Chipotle's online ordering |   Chipotle

Chipotle's online ordering | Chipotle

One of the latest strategies by Chipotle to reclaim its top spot in the fast casual sector is to implement more digital technologies. The restaurant's goal is to make the ordering process even more convenient for guests.

One of the ways the chain is focusing on digital is it has added another line dedicated to only online orders. Starbucks, the king of mobile orders, also has a group of team members dedicated to solely mobile orders at each store.

Chipotle is also testing having online only pick-up drive-thru lanes to make the pick-up for online orderers even quicker.

"We are definitely under a digital transformation at Chipotle," said Brian Niccol, Chipotle's CEO to "CNN Business."

Evidently, the investment in digital tech has paid off. Digital sales grew by 66 percent in the last three months of 2018. The company's stock has spiked by 35 percent over the last year and in the last quarter of 2018, restaurant sales grew by 6 percent.

"We're definitely just getting started," said Niccol to "CNN." "There's still so much opportunity in front of us, and there's still a lot of work to be done."

Read more about Chipotle’s push to promote digital ordering at “CNN Business” now.

It's been a long road of recovery for the fresh Mex fast casual after its food safety crisis back in 2015, but then the chain hired the former Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol and continues to make power moves as part of its comeback play.

In 2019, the chain started the year out with a bang by rolling out lifestyle bowls. These new menu items are keto, Whole30, and paleo-friendly. Even though more restaurants are offering meals that are diet friendly, it's still difficult for those eating keto, paleo or Whole30 to find quick food options on the go. Chipotle is one of the first chain's to cater to these popular diets, making the restaurant one of the only options for those who are tired of the constant meal prep.

On a recent episode of The Barron Report, Host Paul Barron explains why he thinks the chain's recent introduction of its Lifestyle Bowls was a slamdunk. Watch the video below to learn more about Chipotle's latest campaign to appeal to health-conscious eaters.

Foodable Network Launches Chef AF a New Podcast

Today, Foodable is launching a new podcast — Chef AF, It’s All Food!— with Chef Jim Berman.

You may have already found out about the newest podcast addition to our show library, through The Barron Report’s latest piece where listeners had the chance to learn more about the chef and host.

Chef Berman has not only been a longtime Foodable expert contributor, but he’s also been a food writer for multiple publications while simultaneously working in and out of kitchens across the U.S.

Now, as the host of Chef AF, Chef Berman will have the chance to get his peers to “talk shop,” as he likes to say, in order to help other chefs and restaurant industry professionals navigate the wonderful yet complex kitchen life.

Chef AF, It’s All Food! is officially launching on Foodable Network today and it will soon be available in iTunes, Google Play and Spotify and other podcast listening platforms.

Listen to the first episode above to meet Berman and learn what you can expect to get from this new podcast!

Restaurant Ordering is on Track to Triple by 2020

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Guests expect that restaurants offer digital conveniences like online ordering. With that in mind, more restaurants are either partnering with third-party apps or developing online ordering platforms that are mobile friendly.

According to a recent report from the NPD Group, digital orders are up by 23 percent annually since 2013 and by 2020, this percentage is expected to triple.

Guests are now more inclined to make a food order digitally than calling the restaurant directly. They are also more likely to do this from their smartphone versus a computer. Six out of 10 digital orders are made on mobile apps.

Food delivery apps like Uber Eats and DoorDash are wildly popular and now make up 40 percent of the 20 most-used apps. These apps offer consumers multiple food options to pick from.

From a restaurant standpoint, these apps are an easy solution to the delivery problem. By partnering with a delivery app, you can offer your customers the convenience of delivery without investing in a driver or a platform to process these orders.

Even though the third-party services have made it easier for brands to offer delivery, they do cut significantly into profits. So we are starting to see more restaurants shift away from these services.

"There are clear leaders in the digital ordering space, brands, and third-party providers who have achieved critical mass the fastest," said David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor. "To make the best decisions about digital strategies and potential partnerships, operators need to understand the key features that differentiate these companies from one another."

Restaurants definitely lose some of the control of these orders. Ultimately, it's up to the third-party's delivery driver to get the food and bring it to the guest in the estimated time frame. So the service aspect is heavily dependent on the delivery provider, not the restaurant.

According to the NPD report, over half of the consumers said they wouldn't use delivery if the food was to come cold or with the incorrect temperature. Read more about the report at “Restaurant Dive” now.

Want some tips on how to provide a delivery program that works? Watch this episode of On Foodable below, where we discuss how to implement delivery services, packaging, menus, and even restaurant design in order to optimize delivery efficiency.

How the Chef's Role is Changing and How Chefs Have Become the Voice Of Reason in Today's Industrialized Food System

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Chefs taking the lead in how — and what — we cook makes sense. Surround yourself with the best people you can afford and trust their decision making. With that, there is a gentle progress murmuring in kitchens. Chefs are making demands on the people that supply ingredients.

Although conventional wisdom says that makes sense, we still have brigades of kitchen staffers that are disconnected from the order guides, program money, and vendor agreements that hobble their ability to make logic of our food system.

A long, long time ago, there was a kitchen designed around the needs of the people that actually used the space. The sinks were in just the right place, the oven was exactly what was needed for firepower, the pick-up window was seamless and glistened with the efficiency of a smart, adept space.

Farmers would bring their toils to the stoops of the cooks. All was right in the world. The end-users were the decision makers. But somewhere along the way, cooks and chefs lost some of their say in policy. We moved more towards numbers and less towards, well, food. Packages got bigger, chickens got more alien-like, and apples stopped rotting. We pawned common sense for dollars and cents.

Fortunately, getting that voice back is happening. Common sense is not always common knowledge, yet we are an adaptable breed, and now we are demanding the systems with which we know we can thrive.

Efficiency Matters

Out in Colorado, agriculture opportunities are a bit more challenging than what we find in Nogales, Salinas, or Napa. Uncooperative terrain is only one hurdle. Alex Seidel of Fruition and Mercantile, among others, has been working with a local potato grower to get the supply with which his restaurants can depend. Working directly is the operative element of changing the relationship between vendors and customers. The big-rig distributors aren’t able to deliver the dialed-in specs that many chefs want. Nothing personal, but the products sometimes don’t work. Seidel stepped into the process by building an efficient relationship to shape the supply system. Not as easy as calling the 1-800 number to place the order, but the result is a local supply that performs as he wants.

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Free range, GMO-free, No Antibiotics, No nothin’

We created this market of consumer demands. We did! We created a field of consumers that understand all-natural. They understand local and antibiotic-free. Now, this more educated consumer base looks for clean labeling and we must comply. And it isn’t just boutique restaurants that are upending their ingredients’ profile.

Panera Bread, for instance, has evolved their menu over the past several years to full transparency, laden with clean ingredients. Why? There is a move from antiquated systems that are dependent on multiple layers of preservatives, unpronounceable ingredients, and monster-esque constructs. There is common sense at play here. The restaurant biz is showcasing food that customers want and the market is responding. Our evolving food systems are grounded in clarity and practical magic versus works of science fiction.

Door Dash & Grub Hub. For Farmers.

There are great farms trying to get their products to the restaurants that so desire to use local commodities. The problem? Distribution. Old Dirt Hill Farm can’t possibly be expected to grow, tend to, harvest, and distribute their crops. It just isn’t an efficient use of resources.

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Shutterstock

In development, the FoodBank of Delaware is building a produce hub. Think of it like Door Dash, but for farmers. Not every restaurant wants or is able to deliver, just like every farm isn’t able to do the same. In steps the FoodBank’s hub. With an already existent system for gathering donations, the circle widens by grabbing produce from throughout northern Delaware. The produce then makes its way back to the FoodBank where it will be packaged or further processed by FoodBank trainees and then distributed. There are wins on many levels; farmers move produce, the FoodBank gets a share, and chefs get local produce delivered minus the distribution headache. A sensible solution that keeps a closed loop of local spending and, more importantly, an efficient system that isn’t dragging tomatoes 2,000 miles on a carbon-spewing eighteen-wheeler with under-ripe produce.

Ugly Produce

Speaking of produce, conventional wisdom has taken over when it comes to food waste on the production side. Blemished, misshapen peppers, tomatoes, and squash are set aside on the retail level as their more preferred contemporaries. As a result, a lot of waste.

Chefs, on the other hand, are embracing the ugly produce to capitalize on pricing and, more importantly, to use their culinary prowess to make appealing food within a system that shames sad looking potatoes.

Hungry Harvest, for instance, drops boxes of “rescued” produce on both the retail and wholesale levels in the mid-Atlantic region and beyond. Why? For restaurants, the impact on food cost is real. Bonus? It is marketable. And, there is no need to discard a perfectly usable product when we have populations around the country that are food insecure.

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As challenging as it may be to develop a relationship with a producer to birth a system, it is just as easy to run to the local grocery depot for products ticking in at a discount. The sacrifice, though, is that quality along the system.

Chefs are the customers of farmers, purveyors, and manufacturers. So it makes sense that they get looped in on the decision making. Making sense of what is being produced based on needs is as fundamental as the blueprint of the kitchen. And, much like that particular blueprint, we have gone astray.

With the new fierceness of contemporary chefs taking the lead in systems, we are getting back the authority to make educated decisions. It starts with the end in mind. We know what we want to see from operations and systems and what makes sense. We are waking up and making plans to change the world.

Want more tips from Chef Berman? Listen to the latest episode of The Barron Report where Host Paul Barrons finds out what Chef Berman thinks about food. You also get a sneak peek into what to expect from the first season of Chef AF, a new podcast with Berman as the host.

Building the Right Marketing Plan for 2019

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Marketing for 2019 is beginning to morph into a new face of digital, in person and one to one marketing that involves a variety of strategies that are improving the overall performance of restaurant operators across the country. The four P’s have been a cornerstone of measuring and developing a plan in the past around Product, Price, Place, and Promotion and today is no different.

I get a chance to sit down with The Restaurant Coach, Donald Burns and explore some of 2019’s key marketing tips to employee for your restaurant as we discuss the issue around Price and why it is much more than what is on your menu, all the way to Promotion and what new tactics are working and what is not.

We also discuss the falling engagement on Facebook for restaurant operators and the potential of new platforms and tactics that might be more effective including creating content for your business as a new strategy for 2019. Even email is coming back with today's operators and the potential of a new club strategy vs loyalty. As you can see this podcast is packed with ideas and discussion on ways to improve your marketing position for 2019.

Stay tuned for my breakdown of the Top Loyalty programs for 2019 and why I think they work and what they need to do to improve.

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