You may think you know the fast-casual Mexican restaurant Chipotle like the back of your hand, but this eatery’s history is brimming with more secrets and surprises than most of us realize. From the restaurant’s humble beginnings to its subsequent successes (and semi-secret spinoff chains), Chipotle has become a nationwide landmark — even spreading out to the U.K., Germany, Canada, and France — and this fast-growing chain shows no signs of stopping.
Read on to learn five surprising secrets about Chipotle — and use this newfound knowledge to impress your friends!
1. The first Chipotle opened in an abandoned ice cream parlor
According to their website, the first Chipotle store opened in 1993 in an abandoned Dolly Madison Ice Cream Parlor in Denver, Colorado.
It may be hard to believe that this hugely successful chain had such humble beginnings — but next time you’re in one of their restaurants, take a look at the decor around you. The store’s sleek “minimalist” look was actually the result of a lacking budget. In fact, the flagship store’s initial decor came mostly from local hardware stores, writes Entrepreneur.
2. Chipotle’s top managers get $10,000 bonuses
3. A professional DJ mixes their store soundtracks
Ever wonder where your local Chipotle gets all those funky tunes on its soundtrack? As it turns out, these tracks are custom-made by veteran DJ Chris Golub (shown performing above) — and the process is more scientific than you might think. Golub spends much of his time noting observations as he listens to mixes play in Chipotle restaurants — according to Businessweek, he carefully considers which types of music are best suited for which time of day, as well as the acoustics of a store with metallic and wooden surfaces. Branding and maintaining a unique image through music is an innovative and relatively new marketing practice that has been nearly perfected by stores like Chipotle and Starbucks.
Chipotle CEO Steve Ells approached Golub in 2010 as the restaurant was tweaking its image to reflect a hipper, more modern vibe, reports Businessweek — and the chain’s 1,400 haven’t looked back since.
4. Chipotle has a counterpart specializing in Asian fare
Chipotle is quietly expanding its business with a similarly-modeled Asian eatery called Shophouse, which currently has locations in D.C., Maryland, and the greater Los Angeles area, according to its website. The first location opened discreetly in 2011, and the chain has been slowly but surely gaining traction — for much the same reasons that Chipotle has become a cultural phenomenon: convenience, ambiance, and deliciousness.
Fast-casual dining is a competitive market, but surely the masterminds behind Chipotle know enough of the secrets to success to send yet another chain to the top. With delicious foods and unique atmospheres, eateries like Shophouse will flourish in their own rights — but having a partner like Chipotle in their corner will only help their cause.
(And if you’re wondering when Chipotle’s going to get in on the pizza game — fear not! Fast-casual pizza is the next step in the Chipotle dynasty.)
5. Get (much) more for your money with a burrito bowl
We know it’s hard to get up to the front of the Chipotle line and resist ordering a standard burrito — but research on the matter shows that you can indulge your cravings more effectively by thinking twice before you order!
Business Insider conducted an analysis on Chipotle food portions, concluding that a Burrito Bowl will get you much larger servings of your favorite Chipotle flavors than a standard burrito will — in fact, this study shows that the burrito bowl contains about 70.7% more flavorful filling than the burrito. Both dishes cost the same amount, so you would be wise to order the burrito bowl to get more bang for your buck. You can even order a tortilla on the side with your bowl and create a (significantly larger) burrito of your own.