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Chipotle moves away from gas with all-electric restaurant design

New Responsible Restaurant format is part of an ongoing move to cut greenhouse gas emissions and operate more efficiently as the chain more than doubles in size.
The new all-electric restaurant in Jacksonville, Fla., has solar panels./Photo courtesy of Chipotle.

Chipotle Mexican Grill is adding a new all-electric restaurant design to its menu of venues as it moves away from cooking with gas.

The fast-casual chain on Tuesday unveiled its Responsible Restaurant Design now featured in two locations—Gloucester, Va., and Jacksonville, Fla.—with a third scheduled to open this summer in Castle Rock, Colo.

The goal is to create more efficient restaurants as the company works toward a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 (compared with a 2019 baseline).

In the case of this new Responsible Restaurant Design, that means taking out the gas stoves, as well as adding rooftop solar panels where possible, heat pumps for water heaters, improved exhaust hoods and even charging stations for electric vehicles.

The new hoods, for example, are up to 35% more efficient than traditional models, the company said. All-electric HVAC units are about 10-15% more efficient, and heat pump water heaters are expected to be 15-20% more efficient.

Here's a look:

The company plans to have more than 100 restaurants in 2024 using all-electric equipment and at least some of the Responsible Restaurant Design elements. The company said 12 restaurants have shifted to all-electric equipment so far.

Gas cooking, in particular, has increasingly come under fire, with a growing number of jurisdictions looking to phase out use of gas in various ways, though other states have attempted to head the movement off by passing laws to prevent bans of natural gas.

According to the company’s latest Sustainability Report, Chipotle exceeded its goals for hitting greenhouse-gas-reduction targets so far. The goal was a 5% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2022, and the company reached a 13% reduction last year.

Across the 3,200-unit chain, restaurants have also deployed various energy management systems, including things like managing heating and cooling, refrigeration temperatures and other equipment. In 2022, those systems helped save an estimated 65,000 megawatt-hours, or the equivalent of powering more than 6,100 homes in a year, according to the Sustainability Report.

The company also worked with a supplier to develop a more efficient rice cooker. Other low-carbon design elements include using LED lighting, tankless water heaters and Energy Star-certified equipment.

Chipotle said 40% of its total energy consumption for 2022 was procured from renewable sources with Renewable Energy Certificates, or RECs, an instrument that supports more sustainable contributions to the energy grid, which in this case means wind power.

“With our aggressive development goal in North America, we hold ourselves accountable to reduce the environmental impact of our restaurants,” said Laurie Schalow, Chipotle’s chief corporate affairs officer, in a statement. “We are aiming to incorporate some elements of our responsible restaurant design into many of our new restaurant openings going forward.”

Chipotle has plans to grow to 7,000 restaurants across North America, more than doubling in footprint—though the company has not given a timeline for that growth. This fiscal year, the company has projected 255 to 285 new restaurants will open.

UPDATE: This article has been updated with more information from Chipotle.

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