Monday, June 07, 2004

DINING: Chipotle's Big Fat Burritos

The Upstate Life has a post about the big, fat burritos at Chipotle. And they are fat, filled with lots of saturated fat. So much so that the Center for Science in the Public Interest's blood is boiling. That's old news. But all of this reminded me of a post from six months ago, where I documented what happens when a crazy old man gets hold of a Chipotle coupon.

From the Oculus archives ...
The Flaws of a Coupon-Based Marketing Campaign.
I was at the Dupont Circle Chipotle to grab a bite for lunch today and came across the latest campaign by a franchise to lure customers in. An older man in line behind me, probably in his late 60s or early 70s who looked quite disheveled and acting mildly eccentric, shoved a brown Chipotle bag on the counter.

Man: "Yeah, I want a burrito."
Chipotle: "Sir, what kind of burrito?"

He again shoves the bag (which I then see says "One Free Burrito"), motions down to it as if that one step alone would get him a burrito. "What, ahhh, what, you have different kinds?"

He looks up, stares a bit and says he wants steak. Meanwhile, I'm down the way being asked what kind of salsa I wanted (I normally get the tomatillo-green chili) and watched the whole drama unfold. The decision between black and pinto beans was no problem -- he definitely wanted black beans.

Then when it was time for Chipotle to spoon on the steak, he stopped the process as he looked down at his many choices.

Man: "Ahh, cancel the steak, I want the roast beef."
Chipotle: "Sir, that's shredded beef."
Man: "What? Ahhh, yeah, roast beef, shredded beef. Yeah."

At this point, I'm down paying for my burrito con pollo and watched him glide through the rest of the Chipotle burrito-building process. He wanted mild salsa, lettuce, cheese, but no sour cream. Then came the beverage selection decision. He looked at the drink case behind the cash register station.

Man: "I want orange juice. Orange drink."
Chipotle: "Do you want soda?"
Man: "No, no, orange juice."
Chipotle (turning around pointing to a Nantucket Nectar): Juice? You want this orange-mango juice?”
Man: "Mango? No. Orange, yes."

Chipotle was not to keen on extending the process any further by notifying him that he was unable to extract the mango juice from the Nantucket Nectar, leaving just the orange juice.

So he shoved the bag-coupon to the register girl, paid for the drink and walked out.

The Chipotle chain which I believe is being sold by McDonald's or has already been sold off, seems to be desperate to attract new customers in a very competitive area. (McDonalds also pulled out of its convenience RedBox 24 hour conveneience hut at 18th and California streets NW.) And both Chipotle and Baja Fresh, which is owned by Wendy's, have been fighting some bad press lately, as the Center for Science in the Public Interest has declared war on not disclosing how unhealthy their food is. Baja Fresh responded by implementing a healthy-choice menu a few months back. I initially thought it was only Baja Fresh that was so bad, but apparently Chipotle is almost as bad too. Cross that place off my list.

Instead of just handing out Chipotle bags promising free burritos to randoms on the street, the franchise should consider implementing a healthy choice menu. That, however may deconstruct Chipotle's niche market of having only a handful of items on its menu.


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