Earlier this year, I wrote about my terrible experience with Chipotle Mexican Grill's (NYSE:CMG) mobile app. Chipotle's poorly rated app has been a major headwind as the company tries to get sales back on track after food safety scares in late 2015 and 2016 drove lots of customers away. In the long run, Chipotle sees mobile ordering as a key growth driver.
The good news for investors (and Chipotle fans) is that management is aware of the issues with the old app. Just this week, the company rolled out highly touted new versions of its app for iOS and Android. The bad news is that Chipotle's new app seems to have just as many problems as the old one.
The new app is still getting mixed reviews
Chipotle released its new mobile app on Monday. On the App Store, Chipotle described the new version as "SO not an update", noting that the company had "redesigned and rebuilt our app from the ground up."
On Chipotle's earnings call last month, management noted that the new app would feature a much-improved user interface. It also remembers your favorite entree and can find your closest store, to make it easier to place an order. Finally, the app has an integrated digital offer platform, allowing Chipotle to send targeted discounts to customers, all of which can be redeemed directly through the app.
The early reviews, however, are decidedly mixed. A handful of users agree that the app is a big improvement over the previous version. But the majority are disappointed by missing features, such as the ability to order ahead and pay in-store; bugs in the app, such as pages that don't load properly; and the app's apparent incompatibility with the new iPhone X.
Another app fail for me
After trying the new Chipotle app earlier this week, I fell squarely into the "disappointed" group. First, when I tried to update the Chipotle app, it didn't upgrade to the newest version. Instead, I had to delete the old app before installing the new one.
Once I got the new app on my phone, I ran into additional problems. Like many other users, I encountered error messages when trying to load certain screens in the app. On the bright side, the process of building my burrito was fairly straightforward and glitch-free. Chipotle's new "smarter pickup times" feature also seemed to be working; at 1:39 p.m., I was able to select a pickup time as early as 1:45.
However, this was all for naught, as I was never able to place an order. I tried paying with two different credit cards that I saved in the app and then tried again with one of those same credit cards entered as a "one-time payment." Every time, the payment failed. In the end, I had to abandon the app and go to Chipotle to place, and pay for, my order.
Chipotle needs to fix this
Some users' gripes with the new app are the result of deliberate choices. For example, I'm sure that Chipotle eliminated the pay-in-store option because it slows down service in the restaurant, creating the exact problem that the app is supposed to alleviate.
On the other hand, the various aspects of the app that were broken -- screens not loading, payments not working, and lack of compatibility with the iPhone X -- are troubling. These are avoidable mistakes that could be damaging for a company like Chipotle that is trying to rebuild its reputation.
Chipotle digital chief Curt Garner was previously the CIO at Starbucks, a company whose app is the gold standard in the restaurant business, So it's surprising that the execution for the new app was so shoddy. I'm certainly in no hurry to try the app again.
The one potential silver lining is that most of the glitches in the new app seem easily fixable. Hopefully, the Chipotle digital team is taking a hard look at the reviews coming in and will work quickly to put out an update that's more usable. Only then will the mobile app be able to contribute in a meaningful way to a turnaround at Chipotle Mexican Grill.