…Digital is no longer just a nice talking point for Chipotle executives to show they are playing a long game; it is moving the needle on the all-important comparable sales growth figure. The company said its 9.9 percent quarterly increase on this metric was mostly attributable to a much-needed traffic boost to its restaurants. But it also said 2 percentage points of the growth was due to “mix,” or the combination of items ordered. And that figure was largely propped up by digital orders, which tend to have higher average checks.
I’ve noted before that, despite the challenging economics, chain restaurants basically have no choice but to figure out how to make delivery work, whether on their own or with third-party partners. The industry is at much the same moment mall giants were in the early 2000s with e-commerce, and it seems like many of them are truly getting that now.
…I still think the aggregators are going to hold increasing power in the dining industry. Customer loyalty will sometimes be to the app, not to individual restaurants; after all, in this set-up, diners don’t even interact with a McDonald’s employee when they get their McNuggets – their customer service experience is in the hands of Uber’s drivers. But, at least for now, restaurant chains have plenty of leverage to make this new dining economy work better for them. And that’s good news, given that the restaurant world’s digital future has truly arrived.