A new Chipotle location opened in Brooklawn NJ last week, and it’s smaller size positions it in a newer Chipotle effort to target smaller towns with smaller stores, while still being very profitable locations.
With the growth in pickup and delivery orders in America, as well as the success of the Chipotlane digital order pickup window, Chipotle is finding great success moving into smaller markets. They don’t always need large restaurants supporting 40 or more dining room seats, to make the effort profitable.
And the new Brooklawn store is likely the smallest Chipotle in the area.
Sitting at the front of the Brooklawn Shopping Center, the building was originally developed in the 1980s as a small classic Taco Bell, and spent many years as a mobile phone store.
While the angular roof of its first Tex-Mex life was long ago boxed-in, remodeling over the years to square off the walls has still kept the same exact small building footprint.
So consider that after constructing the kitchen and serving counter area, it leaves only a small amount of space for the dining room seating. It’s very reminiscent of the Taco Bell days, and actually feels smaller inside today.
The Chipotle in Brooklawn supports about 14 seats. Compare that with the Washington Township Chipotle which has seating for 40 or more.
Chipotle likes to use a blend of high-top seating (grouped) and traditional tables… and in the Brooklawn store there is just one section of high-top seats (8 seats), and one single table, plus a few seats along the front window.
According to Chipotle’s CFO Jack Hartung. “If you’re looking at a site in between two [existing] locations, if you can go into a 1,400- or 1,200-square-foot space, instead of 2,200, your investment goes down, real estate taxes go down, labor costs go down, too, HVAC cost is lower. Generally, if we open up a small location with a Chipotlane, digital sales will be higher, and we need less labor.Chipotle CFO Jack Hartung to FastCompany.com August 2020
The Brooklawn store also features their Chipotlane pick-up window. Customers must still order in advance digitally (via smartphone app or website), and then they can pull up to the window and quickly pickup their order.
While many have commented on Social Media that this new location seems close to the existing Bellmawr store, Chipotle feels that the Brooklawn location’s smaller size and order pickup convenience (Chipotlane), will allow it to draw revenue from customers who would not have driven the Bellmawr’s Black Horse Pike location, or Deptford.
Recent comments from the Chipotle CEO indicate the newer Chipotlane concept has proven to be a successful addition to the business model, and they have increased their expansion guidance by another 1,000 stores to 7,000, with a big part of that based on the success of the smaller town markets and the Chipotlane pick-up window.
The direction towards “to-go” orders for Brooklawn is also evidenced in the parking lot, as the EIGHT front parking spots are reserved for “Digital and Catering” orders. Factor in the required handicap spots on the front side, and there are very few parking spaces to use for dine-in eating.
Chipotle – Ahead of Changes in Casual Fast-Food Dining
Chipotle is a chain of fast casual restaurants specializing in bowls, tacos and burritos made to order in front of the customer.
Chicken is likely their top selling protein but they also offer steak, pork, vegetable and other specialty proteins throughout the year
Today they have over 3000 locations in five different countries. At one time McDonald’s was a major investor in the chain and helped them grow to 500 locations before they were spun off into their own publicly traded company.
Along the Route 42 area I believe Deptford was the first location and for several years that restaurant experienced long waits as customers clamored for the delicious chicken burritos and bowls… and had limited options in the area to purchase.
In the last few years they’ve been on a strong expansion program through South Jersey adding locations in Washington Township, Glassboro, Cross Keys, Blackwood and Bellmawr and others.
Chipotle seems to be following a pattern similar to Starbucks, which was to move into new regions with a few stores in key commercial locations, and then after the brand was established, add in additional stores to fill in the coverage gaps.
And for Choptle they are realizing with the growth of To-Go orders, they don’t always need to build the full size stores for 40 people do dine in
Well if you follow industry news publications, it’s clear that every casual/fast food restaurant sees this trend, and they release renderings of new store designs. McDonald’s is going as far as creating a new brand of smaller-format stores “CosMc’s”
It seems Chipotle is just sticking with a model they know well, and making things smaller where it makes sense.
While I have not visited all of the Chipotle locations in the area, The ones I have been to seem to be around 2,300 square feet, with Washington Township clocking in at 2400 square feet. The larger size provides them with several dozens of seats in the dining area.
But the new Brookllawn store is 1/3 smaller at 1,600 sq ft… of which a significant portion of square footage reduction is in the dining area.
Recent articles about Chipotle have highlighted the success of this model, mostlty based on commentary from the CEO at quarterly earnings announcements. According to Nation’s Restaurant news, in the Q1 2023 earnings call CEO Brian Niccol said:
“In fact, within the last year, we had our top five openings in the company’s history, of which four were in small towns,”
“Our margin, even though it’s kind of smaller volume, is actually higher. The investment costs tend to be lower as well. So, the cash-on-cash returns in these small towns are stronger than what you’re seeing in a typical average Chipotle,” he said.Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol to Nations Restaurant News May 2023
Links and Location
703 Browning Lane (Browning Rd)
Brooklawn, NJ 08030