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See the Chipotle of the future

<i>Chipotle</i><br/>The interior of a new Chipotle.
Thomas Wolf
The interior of a new Chipotle.

By Jordan Valinsky, CNN

The distinctive gas grills in Chipotle restaurants might be a thing of the past.

On Tuesday, the fast casual Mexican chain unveiled an all-electric restaurant design that is completely powered by renewable energy, such as solar and wind. That means the gas grills that have become the focal point for walk-in customers are being replaced by electric systems, which are intended to help the chain achieve its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.

Noticeable changes in this new store format include rooftop solar panels, electric vehicle charging stations and biodegradable flatware and bowls. Other changes include cactus-leather chairs and artwork made from recycled rice husks. Chipotle will tweak the design based on feedback from customers and employees, the company said.

So far, two of these new locations have opened in Gloucester, Virginia and Jacksonville, Florida, with a third opening this summer in Castle Rock, Colorado. The goal is to have 100 new locations operating entirely on electricity next year, which is a small percentage of the long-sought goal of operating 7,000 locations across North America over the next several years.

The chain currently owns and operates 3,200 restaurants in the United States.

Sustainability has long been a focus for Chipotle, which, along with other fast food chains, has been criticized for not being environmentally friendly. The chain is also increasing the amount of produce bought locally to cut down on fuel used during the transportation process, and is developing more vegan and vegetarian menu items.

Chipotle is constantly tweaking its store designs. It’s currently experimenting with designs that are smaller than its typical footprint and focuses on digital ordering so it can build new locations in urban areas where real estate is pricier.

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