Episode Summary

Hear what baseball, authenticity, and America’s farmers have to do with Chipotle’s continued off-prem revolution, starring Jonathon Relkin, Director of Digital & Off-Premises at Chipotle. On this episode of Restaurant Reinvented, hostess Jen Kern dives into Jonathon’s impressive eComm background with brands like Vans, Mattel, and Reebok to discover which B2C best practices translate to the restaurant industry’s rapid digital transformation. Learn tips on how to entice consumer purchasing at each step of the off-prem journey, including:
  • How to dress your digital storefront with the right assets
  • Getting the guest feedback we all desperately need
  • Building successful relationships across the entire value chain
  • The metrics that matter to Chipotle’s digital team
  • How Chipotle is committed to saving America’s farmers – one burrito at a time
  • What’s on the menu next for digital and new food items
Jen also talks with Jonathon about authenticity, staying true to the brand’s mission, and creating an amazing customer experience off-premises. You’ll hear why Chipotle is the pioneer in digital transformation for fast-casual restaurants.


🍽 Name: Jonathon Relkin
🍽 What he does: With over 15 years of consumer product experience (Reebok, Mattel and Vans) Jonathon specializes in scaling global eComm and digital platforms through digital marketing, sales activation and supply chain optimization. At Chipotle he’s responsible for driving demand of off-prem channels and bringing the brand to life through marketing activities.
🍽 Company: Chipotle Mexican Grill
🍽 Key Quote: “If the experience of the last eight or nine months in this COVID environment has taught me anything, it’s that things can change on a dime and you have to keep learning and growing.”

Key Insights

🌶️Everyone In Your Supply & Value Chain Matters
Jonathon explained the steps that Chipotle takes in order to help everyone in their supply chain – from farmers, employers in the restaurant, to the delivery guy. “The plight of the American farmer is real…” and Chipotle is committed to helping all its partners because the “entire series of actors involved at every touch point is part of telling your brand story.”
“The pig farmer we rely on for our carnitas and the avocado farmer we use, each has a different set of challenges. But at the end of the day, for us to deliver fresh food, it starts with a commitment and a complete partnership up and down the supply chain.”
🌶️Use Your Digital Storefront to Trigger an Emotional Response
“People don’t buy based on a logical explanation of price and value … it’s driven by an emotional connection with your brand, food, and imagery.” How do you tap into those emotions when there’s an endless isle of choice for today’s off-prem consumers?
According to Jonathon, you need irresistible and amazing images of your food on each channel and at each point of the journey to trigger the consumer’s craving and emotional response.
Pro Tip from Jonathon: Print out pictures from each step in the customer journey. From the minute a customer starts searching for their food online to the moment they check out with your brand – what are the images they see and how are you enticing them along the digital journey? Does it make them hungry, trigger the craving, make them want to buy from you? Are you creating an emotional connection?
🌶️Up Next for Chipotle & Digital…
Jonathon shares Chipotle’s digital priorities for the year, which include expanding their chat functionality, Bots, AI, and different ways guests can provide feedback to them. On the menu, he provides a sneak peek of their new Cauliflower Rice just announced as well as other menu tests and introductions including protein brisket and updates to the quesadilla offering.

Episode Highlights

The Second Inning of Digital Transformation
Jonathon likens the restaurant industry’s transformation to a baseball game, and we’re merely in the second inning of our digital evolution. He joined Chipotle expressly for that purpose. Having participated in the original retail eComm shift at Reebok, Mattel, and Vans — he has first-hand experience in driving industry-wide changes.
Craveable Authenticity: The Most Applicable B2C Practice
Stressing the importance of authenticity: “Every business and brand needs to really look in the mirror. Be who you are. And be who you say you are.” Then tell that story across your digital channels. Consumers want an authentic emotional connection to your brand – and a craveable experience that’s consistent.
“The actions you’re taking, the communications and messaging all need to line up to the brand’s mission and vision. It starts by having a clear picture of who you are and then structuring your messaging, the imagery, the assets you’re using, the places you show up. They all ladder back up to that approach and your mission.”
Tailor Off-Prem Strategies & Tactics For Each Channel
Chipotle created strategies and tactics designed for each of the off-prem channels that are all about advancing the brand. From order-ahead and their app to delivery and Chipotlanes, Jonathon covers all the bases with his world-class digital marketing team.  Chipotle’s digital business was 20% pre-pandemic; reached a high of 70% during the pandemic and is now normalizing around 50% of the business.
Guest Feedback & the Digital Experiences “In the Middle”
A restaurant chain of Chipotle’s size can hardly control everything. The main problem we have as an industry is lack of feedback post-sale  – we never know if someone has stopped buying from us unless they leave feedback. Without feedback, we don’t know what they need to improve.
“It’s in the middle where you will get killed with digital experiences.” Meaning, when the customer experience isn’t so awful that the guest complains; but when guests aren’t happy and don’t provide that critical feedback needed to improve the experience and drive repeat loyalty.
Metrics That Matter the Most
The metrics that matter most to Jonathon and his digital marketing team are Speed (end-to-end flow time) and Average Order Volume (AOV). When it comes to collecting and analyzing that data, he says “We are data rich and insight poor as an industry and that we need to be more choiceful in use of the data. How do you present the data? What are your goals and trying to accomplish?
“There is so much data that is available. The challenge is figuring out what is the right data to be looking at? And then what is actionable from that data? Many times we talk about … it can be good to know this and be good to know that. I think the question you have to ask yourself is what are you going to do with that data?”

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