Chipotle: Different and Better?
By Steve Portigal at 12:52 pm, Thursday April 24 2008

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Ode To A Burrito is a Fast Company profile of Chipotle Mexican Grill and iconoclastic founder and CEO Steve Ells.

Chipotle has achieved these impressive stats by spurning fast-food orthodoxy….Chipotle also avoids the frills that pad other chains’ bottom lines. “Desserts and other sides are all profit for these chains,” says industry analyst Clark Wolf. “The whole infrastructure’s already there, so they can make a 90% margin on extras.” But founder and CEO Steve Ells staunchly refuses to expand his menu beyond four options (burrito, burrito bowl, taco, salad). “We want to do just a few things better than everyone else,” Ells says. “We just do things we think are right.”

Could you open a movie theater without popcorn, focusing instead on the core few things that enable the desired experience (this is a bad metaphor since of course popcorn is readily seen as intrinsic to a movie experience, in-home or in the theater)? Is Ells throwing away money for an idea that is meaningless or does he have a holistic Jobs-like vision that drives decisions like this (his name is Steve…)?

Elsewhere the article refers to fans of the chain and describes the growth and financial success the company is showing. But what do you think? Is this company run by a brilliant visionary?

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2 Responses to “Chipotle: Different and Better?”

    What is going on with the ENORMOUS portion size at Chipotle? Their burritos are twice the normal size.

    Comment by Virginia Postrel 04.28.08 @ 8:30 pm


    Is normal based on fast-food chains or on neighborhood-type Mexican restaurants?

    Comment by Steve Portigal 04.28.08 @ 9:15 pm