THIS CHIPOTLE BURRITO HAS FOODPOWER. IT'S CHANGING THE WAY PEOPLE EAT. And the company is popular, profitable & growing! A success story packed with FoodPower - perfect for me to profile in this newsletter.
I am a fan of Chipotle. Here are a few reasons why:
- This is a company with integrity - their commitment to the customer, community, and environment set an incredible example
- I worked with them as an expert witness when someone tried to copy their trademarked recipes, which are excellent by any standard
- I have invested in their stock, so I continue to study their success
- Revenues have tripled since 2006, and there are 1,200 stores with a 25% profit margin (most restaurateurs consider 10% to be an accomplishment)
- The IPO opened at $22 in '06 and is worth more than $300 a share today
Founder Steve Ells is the Steve Jobs of food. It's a bold statement, but I'll attempt to explain this by elaborating on why Chipotle just works. After all, there's a reason why the Wall Street Journal named him Food Innovator of the Year.
Steve Ells is All About the Food. He is the serious guy on the right with Bobby Flay on Reality TV. He is the founding Chef-turned-CEO (a magic combination) of Chipotle Mexican Grill. That, and some really smart moves are the secrets to his success and amazing growth of his biz.
Ells has revolutionized the fast food industry bringing fresh "food with integrity," great taste and great value to the masses. Chipotle has held its price points, never cutting quality, while discounts reign in this economy.
So, who is this restaurant guru? Ells was an art history major in college and a graduate of the CIA. As a Chef, he did a stint with Jeremiah Tower at Stars in San Francisco, where I first met him. I believe his time in San Francisco inspired him to source fantastic ingredients and deliver a lighter and spicier flavor profile to traditional Mexican dishes. His smoky chipotle-marinated meats and lime-cilantro rice are examples of why his food is so appealing to the palates of so many. Unlike other fast-food concepts, he doesn't dumb down his flavors - his food is layered and bold, possessing the complexity of fine food.
How it began... Ells says he never intended to stay in fast food, but was just starting Chipotle to fund his "real" restaurant. He opened his first Chipotle in Denver with the help of his Dad in an old ice cream parlor for a mere $85,000. Ells and his father projected their break-even point at 100 burritos per day, but he found himself selling 1,000 per day after the first month. When a line formed around the block, he opened the second store, with a mostly cash flow. Ells is not a "numbers guy," but went looking for money to expand and found a pot at the end of the McDonald's rainbow. Luckily for all of us, the golden arches did not try to change his food (made from scratch by hand) and backed out when Chipotle went public (they left with a $1.5 billion - five times their initial investment).
THE CHIPOTLE MENU AND BRAND IS SIMPLE. Chipotle Mexican Grill is a buffet style, fast but fresh, Mexican Grill started by an indie whose goal was to work with the best ingredients possible and create tasty food for all to enjoy. What makes this work financially is the simplicity of the menu & service. The secret: a limited list of awesome ingredients designed and assembled fresh, in view, the way you like it!
Your choice - your design - your way: a giant flour tortilla for wrapping, OR pick a bowl, salad, or soft or hard taco. Then pile it high with fresh cilantro-lime rice, vegetarian black or pinto beans, meat (braised carnitas, barbacoa, grilled chicken or steak), grilled vegetables, guacamole, cheese, and sour cream. Top it all off with a selection of fresh salsas: roasted chili corn, mild fresh tomato, medium tomatillo green and spicy tomatillo red.
Chipotles' food cost is 31.5% which is higher than most fast food restaurants, but the taste, quality and value perception (amazing fresh guacamole) allows prices to be higher than the competition. The brand is now so strong it owns the word "Chipotle," the name for a smoky jalapeno pepper.
FOOD WITH INTEGRITY. Chipotle got our attention when we heard that Ells entered into an agreement with Niman Ranch to buy its award-winning pork for the carnitas in his then 800 restaurants. The hogs are raised outdoors or in deeply bedded pens, never given hormones or antibiotics and fed a 100% vegetarian diet. Ells and his team have continued and increased their commitment to seek food, where possible, that is sustainably grown and naturally raised with respect to animals, the land, and the farmers who produce the food.
Today, Chipotle serves more naturally raised meat than any other restaurant.
CHIPOTLE'S SERVICE IS FRIENDLY & FANATICALLY FIRED UP
The service is fluently "chipotlerized." They know their stuff, wear gloves, speak up, look you in the eye, and pay attention. They are fast, fastidious and full of fun. Everything is gluten free except the flour tortillas so if you say, "gluten free please"...they shout out the order, change their gloves and work so there is no cross contamination.
"FAST" FOOD. CALL, FAX, USE YOUR PHONE APP - there are options to help you skip the line and it's fast. Order beer or a margarita for a real dining experience, or take your food in a bag and eat on the run. Whatever you prefer, the service staff is on the assembly line working with you to build your meal, one ingredient at a time.