June 18, 2013

Brands We Love: Chipotle

I. love. Chipotle. There, I said it. And no, I’m not referring to the pepper, but the mouth-wateringly delicious Mexican grill.


The best part is, it goes beyond the food. I love the cheekiness of Chipotle’s brand, but the fact that it’s mixed with a “Food With Integrity” mission, I have become the most loyal of brand advocates.


But first, a little history: In 1993, Chipotle was founded by Steve Ellis in Colorado. Ells and his father calculated that the store would need to sell 107 burritos per day to be profitable. After one month, the original restaurant was selling over 1,000 burritos a day.


Chipotle’s menu consists of four simple options: burritos, burrito bowls, tacos and salads. And, four types of protein: chicken, pork carnitas, barbacoa (spicy, shredded beef) or steak (and of course, customers have the ability to make a vegetarian option as well).


Why such a limited menu? Steve Ells has said, “[I]t’s important to keep the menu focused, because if you just do a few things, you can ensure that you do them better than anybody else.”


Well put. So, what about the brand?


First and foremost, a little more info on Chipotle’s “Food With Integrity” mission.


Food With Integrity is our commitment to finding the very best ingredients raised with respect for the animals, the environment and the farmers. It means serving the very best sustainably raised food possible with an eye to great taste, great nutrition and great value.

It means that we support and sustain family farmers who respect the land and the animals in their care. It means that whenever possible we use meat from animals raised without the use of antibiotics or added hormones. And it means that we source organic and local produce when practical. And that we use dairy from cows raised without the use of synthetic hormones.


Food With Integrity is a journey that started more than a decade ago and one that will never end.


Quite a bold statement for a fast,casual dining chain.


And then there’s the physical branding. The packaging is irreverent and hilarious. The cups and bags tell a story, providing a little entertainment while you nosh on your burrito.



And, for the design nerds out there, you’ll find “Lorem ipsum” placeholder text on the larger carryout bags. (Huge props go out to Sequence, the creative development agency responsible for Chipotle’s quirky brand executions.)



In 2011, Chipotle released a short film entitled, “Back to the Start.” The film, by film-maker Johnny Kelly, depicts the life of a farmer as he slowly turns his family farm into an industrial animal factory before seeing the errors of his ways and opting for a more sustainable future. Both the film and the soundtrack were commissioned by Chipotle to emphasize the importance of developing a sustainable food system.


The video reached more than four million views on YouTube when it aired, in its entirety (2 minutes and 20 seconds), during the 2012 Grammy Awards. At present, the video has a whopping 7.3 million views.


Chipotle has even launched a free, all-day food and music festival called Cultivate. Last year’s event in Chicago, paired chefs such as Amanda Freitag and Jonathan Waxman with local farmers for cooking demos, while CAA Marketing helped line up bands like Calexico to headline. As festival­goers roamed through the entertainment, they discovered tents that informed them about shocking but common industrial-farming practices. This year, Cultivate will return to Chicago, but is also expanding, with events in San Francisco and Denver.


And the momentum continues…Last year, Chipotle ranked 34th on Fast Company’s list of The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies. Why? “For exploding all the rules of fast food.” So, thank you, Chipotle, for continuing to innovate and push us out of our fast food comfort zone. I am genuinely excited to see what’s in store (and am now, of course, craving a burrito bowl with chips and guac).



“Feeding frenzy,” Rocky Mountain News, Janet Forgrieve, Feb. 18, 2006

“Chipotle: Fast Food with Integrity,” Businessweek, http://goo.gl/l73fN

“Food With Integrity,” Chipotle.com, http://goo.gl/5SP20

“The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies,” Fast Company, Danielle Saks, http://goo.gl/7H771


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