For a while, Chipotle was the darling of the quick service restaurant (QSR) category, frequently cited as a catalyst in millennials “killing” fast food and casual dining chains. Chipotle was perceived as just as fast but far healthier, in addition to boasting more natural and ethically-sourced ingredients. But after a series of food safety issues, Chipotle’s popularity waned.
“They hadn’t put much effort to keep its app on the cutting edge and it wasn’t performing terribly well,” says Donald Brady, Principal at Deloitte Digital. “We really went out and talked to customers about what they were looking for in the Chipotle experience.”
An empathetic approach to Chipotle’s app
Deloitte wasn’t hired solely for its ability to redesign an app. The consultancy also brought a wealth of knowledge about Chipotle’s customers, having surveyed 4,500 of them the previous year for “The restaurant of the future” report. That research colored Deloitte’s pitch, promising a sense of empathy.
One key finding is that when QSR customers use technology to place their orders, they spend 20% more per visit. Additionally, frequency of visits jumps 6%. That meant that Chipotle’s new app had to have quick, easy ordering.
“Talking to real customers who are living the experience is a critical part of any design process. One of our team members who does user experience is a Denver native who grew up in that line,” adds Brady. “He’s been instrumental in driving the UX because he implicitly understands the brand from a consumer perspective.”
Speed of order
Another insight guiding Chipotle’s revamped app: People are creatures of habit.
“The typical customer has a preferred meal and orders the same item again and again,” says Brady, expressing, almost verbatim, what Dunkin’ Donuts’ Sherrill Kaplan said about DD Perks‘ “favorites” feature. “Another key persona is the busy mom who may be ordering for a family, all of whom have very different orders. Speed of order and convenience of pick-up were front of mind.”
If you’ve ever gone to a Chipotle in a commercial district for lunch, you know the lines get crazy. Mobile ordering helped dissipate that. Now, restaurants often have separate lines just for digital orderers.
“In the QSR experience’s value proposition, convenience is number one. Consistency in terms of product quality is number two. And then the ease of the pickup experience,” says Brady. “If you deliver an order that’s correctly prepared and at the right temperature, and the pickup is easy and convenient, you’re training the customers to expect a good quality product. That definitely results in a bump in loyalty.”
The app supports both Apple and Google Pay because easy payments are also crucial to a good customer experience. Mobile payments are particularly important to QSR customers, 50% of whom prefer to pay in-app. According to recent eMarketer research, the company behind the most popular mobile payment method isn’t Apple or Google; it’s actually Starbucks.
Chipotle’s improved app launched in November. Key performance indicators (KPI) Deloitte tracked included daily active users, volume of sales, frequency of order and order size. There was an uptick in all of them almost immediately. The average iOS App Store rating also jumped from 2 stars to 4.5.
Part of it was, of course, the convenience. Deloitte also made a point to prioritize imagery, using vibrant colors to stress the brand’s fresh food.
“The imagery is much more vibrant, putting a lot more emphasis on the visual punch of the menu, which is fresh and colorful, and makes your mouth water,” says Brady.
Mobile ordering has increased 50% year-over-year, contributing to 8.6% of Chipotle’s sales being digital. The redesign also helped the brand win Best UI in the 2018 Webby Awards.
The revamped app is just one piece of Chipotle’s overall investment in digital, which also includes a “Smarter Pickup Times” option on the website, allowing customers to reserve pickup times in advance. So far it seems to be paying off: Chipotle’s most recent quarter was a great one.