In 2010 a major milestone was struck in the food industry that slipped quietly into the night, passing most of us by.
In 2010, for the first time ever, the share of Americans’ food budget for eating out reached 50% – compare this to 1984 when that percentage was 41%.
Our appetite for eating has left our own kitchens and landed into commercial kitchens, to bars and restaurants.
In the decade since this milestone was reached, a separate, breakaway revenue path has started to emerge that is tied to fast-food restaurants, and it’s centered around ecommerce.
The recent news of Taco Bell opening up the first digital-only restaurant in Times Square highlights this next shift in food and ecommerce.
If you find yourself in Midtown Manhattan, and are craving a Crunchwrap Supreme or Cheesy Gordita Crunch, you can now place an order online ahead of time. And when you arrive, there is even a separate entrance for mobile orders.
Other food and drink franchises have also set up their own digital kitchens, including Starbucks and Chipotle. The latter of which utilizes the digital experience platform of Adobe Experience Manager (AEM), powerful in personalization, scalability, and centralized asset management.
Both famous chains have opened digital-only restaurants due to their online sales surging in recent times. In addition to the digital drive, their decision was also tied to new designs in chopping off square footage. Chipotle’s endeavor is called the Chipotle Digital Kitchen.
“The Digital Kitchen incorporates innovative features that will complement our rapidly growing digital business,” said Chipotle’s chief tech officer Curt Garner, “while delivering a convenient and frictionless experience for our guests.
“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.”
If BOPIS or click and collect are the preferred options for our groceries and clothing, then digital kitchens can be the answer for food and drink.
Another reason for Chipole’s digital pathway is that it wants to reach into more urban areas without having to develop large-scale restaurants, which represent larger risks in more untested markets.
As one of their press releases put it: “The Digital Kitchen concept is focused on accelerating the digital business in non-traditional locations. It is unique because it does not include a dining room or front service line and guests must order in advance via Chipotle.com, the Chipotle app or third-party delivery partners.
“Orders can be picked up from a lobby that is designed to include all of the sounds, smells and kitchen views of a traditional Chipotle restaurant. The Digital Kitchen will also service large catering orders available for pick-up in a separate lobby with its own dedicated entry.”