Chipotle's iPhone Indigestion

Chipotle Mexican Grill's (NYSE: CMG  ) (NYSE: CMG-B  ) first foray into Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) App Store was a lot like one of its signature burritos: rushed to order, digested quickly, and gone before you knew it.

You won't find Chipotle's mobile ordering application for Apple's iPhone and iPod touch owners available this morning. The program was taken down yesterday afternoon, just hours after it first appeared.

"My two favorite things in this world are my iPhone and Chipotle," one reader comments on the Mac Rumors article that broke the story. "I did backflips when I saw it in the App Store. I got a stomach ache when I tried to use it."

Whether it was the clunky interface, the drawn-out registration process, or just the pointless task of entering a ZIP code to locate the nearest locations, when most apps automatically detect where a request is coming from, Chipotle probably figured that it was better to pull a program that wasn't up to snuff than to let it disappoint its tech-savvy fan base.

The fast-growing chain should know better. Customers can already skip long lunchtime lines by ordering online through the company's website, so it already has the automation side down. 

Restaurant chains have embraced digital ordering solutions, typically led by pizza-delivery chains. Papa John's (NYSE: PZZA  ) has a Facebook app. Domino's Pizza (NYSE: DPZ  ) will let pie-seekers order through TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO  ) whenever an ad pops up.

Fast food and quick-service chains have been slower to catch on, mostly because they are drive-to experiences; patrons still need to get out to the establishment to pick up their orders anyway. However, as delivery chains make it even more convenient to choose them, chains like Chipotle are wisely extending their own ordering into cyberspace -- and eventually, the iPhone.

One can't blame Chipotle for losing focus. Comps have fallen behind the company's historically torrid pace, spurring the company to launch an aggressive marketing campaign to get growth back on track. The burrito vendor is also eyeing international markets; it opened its first Canadian location in Toronto last year, and a London location is on board this year.

Despite the first version's abrupt belly-flop, I'll keep an eye out for the updated version of Chipotle's mobile order app. Unlike the chain's tasty burritos, at least this morsel's free.   

Chipotle was recommended in both Motley Fool Hidden Gems and Rule Breakers newsletter services. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. The Fool owns shares of Chipotle. Which of these stock research services is right for you? Check them out with a free 30-day trial subscription offer.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz can walk to a Salsarita or jog to a Baja Fresh or a Qdoba, but prefers the short drive to his local Chipotle. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool's disclosure policy likes to practice its Spanish while ordering a carnitas burrito.  


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