Foodservice Pivots Towards Convenience

order signage on grey wooden plank

Several leading foodservice companies have revealed plans for more convenient store models that are designed with pickup and delivery in mind.


Chipotle is opening its first digital-only restaurant called the Chipotle Digital Kitchen. Located in Highland Falls, NY, the restaurant is opening Nov. 14 for pick-up and delivery only.

The new prototype will allow Chipotle to enter more urban areas that wouldn’t support a full-size restaurant and allows for flexibility with future locations. It does not include a dining room or front service line and guests must order in advance via, the app, or third-party delivery partners.

Orders are picked up from a lobby that is designed to include all of the sounds, smells, and kitchen views of a traditional Chipotle.

“The Digital Kitchen incorporates innovative features that will complement our rapidly growing digital business, while delivering a convenient and frictionless experience for our guests,” said Curt Garner, Chief Technology Officer of Chipotle. “With digital sales tripling year over year last quarter, consumers are demanding more digital access than ever before so we’re constantly exploring new ways to enhance the experience for our guests.”

The Digital Kitchen will also service larger catering orders that can be picked up in a separate lobby with its own dedicated entry.

Captain D’s

Fast casual seafood chain Captain D’s is launching a new restaurant prototype called Express which features a significantly smaller footprint than its traditional models.

Captain D’s Express is designed to fit within .35 – .5-acre land parcels in metropolitan areas with high population densities. Compared to the brand’s usual 44-seat, 1,964-sq. ft. model, Express features an average footprint of 960-sq. ft. and has a drive-thru and walk-up window for ordering and picking up. There are no indoor dining rooms.

The new design reflects extensive guest feedback that displays an increased demand for enhanced drive-thru and takeout options, as well as Captain D’s overall goal to provide franchisees with flexibility to develop the restaurant footprint best suited for their markets. Express models can also reduce startup costs for franchisees by as much as 32%.

“Long before the pandemic and subsequent social distancing mandates, we were intently listening to our guests and closely following evolving real estate trends, all which led to the development of our Express prototype,” said Phil Russo, VP of real estate for Captain D’s. “Pre-COVID-19, 70% of our sales were generated by off-premises dining – 50% drive-thru and 20% takeout – and those numbers have held strong over the past several months, only reinforcing the need and viability of Express’ design.”


McDonald’s also recently shared some model-of-the-future designs that it expects to reach more than 10,000 restaurants worldwide, reported QSR Magazine (Nov. 10).

The company is working on a smaller restaurant footprint that focuses exclusively on efficiency. It features a drive-thru, takeaway, and delivery with limited or no dine-in seating.

“Customers’ desire for convenience, speed, and ease will only grow, and we’re ready for that.  We’re taking steps to accelerate our phenomenal drive-thru advantage,” said Mason Smoot, SVP and chief restaurant officer. “We know better than anyone what drive-thru customers care about. It starts with speed of service.”