Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Hat tip to Cheryl for this from the Onion, Breaking News: "Chipotle Employee Just Gave Guy In Front Of You More Rice". Excerpt:

Your meek body language and resigned facial expression also suggest a high probability of inaction on your part, possibly owing to your fear of "causing a scene" in front of a bunch of strangers whom you will never see again and who would undoubtedly side with you had they seen the uneven rice distribution. A mental catalog of past Chipotle experiences currently racing through your head—including that time the woman gave you spicy salsa when you specifically asked for mild—likewise supports the belief that you are going to get screwed yet again.

"Peppers and onions?" the employee has asked, your burrito moving irrevocably further from the rice station.

As the opportunities for additional rice become bleaker, you have resorted to communicating your displeasure in a number of passive-aggressive ways. These include glaring at the employee when he looks away and providing somewhat curt burrito-filling instructions, such as "Chicken" and "Yes, pinto beans," in an apparent hope that your cold tone of voice will make him realize that a terrible mistake has been committed.

On a serious note, Chipotle is an impressive business. Compared to two other national Mexican fast casual restaurant chains with outposts around here, Baja Fresh and Qdoba, the food quality at Chipotle is better (perhaps because Chipotle's founder, Steve Ells, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America). Also, compared to those two competitors, Chipotle is a more efficient operation. Burritos and tacos get filled, assembly line style, versus Baja Fresh or Qdoba, both of which give customers buzzers and make them wait five or ten minutes for their orders. That efficiency enables Chipotle to serve a large lunchtime crowd. I've stood in a line winding out the door at the Chipotle in New York's financial district and been surprised at how quickly the line moved.

Incidentally, at one point, Chipotle, Baja Fresh, and Qdoba were each owned by burger chains: Chipotle by McDonald's, Baja Fresh by Wendy's, and Qdoba by Jack in the Box. Qdoba is, I believe, still owned by Jack in the Box.

A trivial coincidence: According to Wikipedia, the father of Chipotle founder Steve Ells was a pharmaceutical executive; the current CEO of Pfizer, Jeff Kindler, was once the president of the McDonald's operating unit that included Chipotle.

The photo above is from the Onion.

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