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Chipotle Is Testing A Walk-Up Window

Finally, a restaurant that lets you walk up to the window.

Forget about the drive-thru. There's an easier, more environmentally-friendly way to get your grub: the walk-thru. And if all goes to plan, walk-up windows could be coming to Chipotle locations around the nation.

Of course, walk-thru—or, if you prefer to use the technical term, walk-up—windows are not a wholly new concept. It's tough to say where and when they first popped up, but they're popular in high-density urban environments, where customers can walk right up to a takeout window and eat good food on the go without having to fret about things like finding a seat or waiting on a long line for service. Head to Washington, D.C., and you'll see a bunch. Seattle, too. (And that's to say nothing of their popularity abroad.)

For the most part, walk-up windows are the stuff of local joints—one-off restaurants that feature edited-down menus in order to serve people faster. They're the very definition of "street food." So, needless to say, Chipotle's announcement is a bit of a surprise; this may be the first time a fast-casual burrito joint has hopped on the trend.

RELATED: These Are the Fastest Drive-Thrus in America—Ranked!

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The windows, cheekily named "Chipotlanes," will be tested at Chipotle locations in Chicago; Cincinnati; Newport Beach, California; Phoenix; and San Diego. For now, at least to start, they'll be attached to full-scale Chipotle restaurants, which will also be undergoing a swanky new décor makeover. Restaurants will be lighter and more spacious, and feature shelves where customers can pick up orders that they placed online.

All of these changes are part of a company-wide initiative to capitalize on a fast-growing digital business. According to a recent press release, Chipotle hit the billion-dollar mark in digital orders.

In the new year, Chipotle plans to open anywhere from 150 to 165 new storefronts in the United States, and roughly half of them will feature the "Chipotlanes." If the initiative is deemed a success, the company will hopefully expand the design to a broader, more national scale.

"By better suiting our restaurants to accommodate the digital business, we're able to finalize orders more effectively and provide a better overall experience for our guests," Curt Garner, Chipotle's chief technology officer, said.

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Ari Notis
Ari is an editor specializing in news and lifestyle. Read more