Whether you love it or hate it, Chipotle is a popular destination for Tex Mex lovers across the country. Since 1993, the restaurant has undergone a few twists and tweaks to deliver better quality food to its devoted fans. Despite a few years of bad press and scandals, the restaurant continues to make innovations that have people coming back, willing to spend that little extra for guacamole. We’ve already told you about some of the top 10 untold truths about Chipotle, but it seems as though we keep uncovering more juicy secrets about the restaurant we can’t help but share. So, here is a double dose of more untold truths about your favorite burrito giant.
10. Someone’s Job is Just to Make Chipotle-Specific Playlists
That someone’s name is Chris Golub. Because you can’t just have any music playing while you’re chowing down on Mexican burritos and tortilla chips, Golub designs specially curated playlists for Chipotle restaurants. Instead of turning on Spotify playlists or the radio, Golub works full-time at creating the soundtrack to your Chipotle experience. Essentially, Golub specifically chooses songs that compliment a customer’s experience. He does this for many different restaurants, through his company, Studio Orca, but Chipotle is by far his biggest client to date. In an interview in 2013, Golub stated that Steve Ells, the founder of Chipotle, “always kept a focus on music as an integral part of the experience.” Golub also stated that, for him, music is about more than just background noise. It’s about the experience, and he works to choose songs that will complement not only the grub Chipotle customers are eating but the overall atmosphere in the restaurant. He has to keep in mind that the industrial vibe of the restaurant doesn’t work for some songs. As a result, there isn’t a specific genre or type of music that you’ll hear when you walk in, but a collection of different songs that add to the atmosphere. Who knew choosing music for a restaurant was so complex?
9. Food Poisoning Scandals Have Been Happening Regularly Since 2015
Since 2015, Chipotle restaurants have been the subject of regular food poisoning outbreaks. That year alone, there were 35 cases of e.coli poisoning in the United States, particularly in Washington and Oregon, as well as salmonella poisoning from bad tomatoes in its Minnesota restaurants. There were also two norovirus outbreaks in 2015 in Boston and Simi Valley, California. By 2016, the company’s stock had taken a big hit and a PR nightmare was on their hands. As a result, all Chipotle locations were closed in February 2016 for retraining staff on new health and safety procedures, and the executive in charge of food health and safety stepped down. There was another norovirus outbreak in 2017 in Sterling, Virginia after over 100 people reported symptoms after eating at a local Chipotle. Investigators traced this outbreak back to one employee who had shown up to work while sick. To make things worse, a few days before this outbreak happened, customers at a Dallas, Texas location claimed they saw mice running around in their local Chipotle. There was video footage to back this up. Spokespeople for the company claimed that this was an isolated incident and the mice had gotten in because of a “small structural gap” that was later repaired. In July 2018, a Chipotle restaurant in Ohio had to close down temporarily because of a number of employees and customers complained they had been sick after eating the restaurant’s food. This number eventually amounted to approximately 647 people. Health inspectors had visited the location and determined that some of its food items weren’t being stored properly, including some of the produce and beans. The specific bacteria that caused the outbreak was a food-borne illness that commonly occurs when foods are pre-cooked and stored at warm temperatures. This scandal got so big that all of the employees were retrained in health and safety procedures.
8. You Can Get Free Guacamole if You Order a Meat-Free Option
Anyone who frequents a Chipotle often knows that there is an extra charge for guacamole. Most people opt to pay for it, because who really wants to eat a burrito without guacamole? Chipotle’s signature guacamole is prepared fresh in-house each day and, for many people, that extra charge is a no-brainer. In fact, customers love Chipotle’s guacamole so much they were outraged when an avocado supply shortage was causing less-than-stellar product results this past summer. Thanks to issues caused by the Mexican-American border debate, the restaurant had to order more avocados from Peru, whose avocados don’t ripen as quickly. People took to social media to vent about their beloved toppings going brown, or showing up in their bowl with pieces of unripe chunks mixed in. But what you may not realize is that there’s a way to get that delicious green stuff for free if you’re willing to sacrifice the meat. This isn’t really a secret. Chipotle has announced on its official social media accounts that all veggie-based or meat-free dishes come with guacamole free of charge. So, if you really want to save the money, this is the way to go. However, this post sparked a debate between plant-based eaters and meat lovers as to whether or not this is fair.
7. American Beef Farmers Are Being Passed up For Australian Suppliers
Chipotle exclusively uses grass-fed beef, but in 2014, the company announced that it’s been sourcing their beef from Australian farmers. The reason it gave was that there isn’t enough supply at home in the United States to keep up with demand. However, the American Grassfed Association doesn’t agree, and this sparked quite a controversy with home-grown suppliers. In an interview with Buzzfeed at the time the announcement was made, Bryan Black, who heads up the Texas Department of Agriculture, stated that ranchers in Texas would be more than excited to have the opportunity to be able to supply home-grown, grass-fed beef to the restaurant. Since there is a supply of American beef available, especially in states like Texas that have a huge agriculture industry, people started questioning whether this was really a supply issue, or whether the restaurant was actually doing this because of the cost factor. A source from Chipotle initially came out in defense of the company’s announcement and added the statement that, if the company was to use American grass-fed beef suppliers, it would have to raise its prices because of a cost premium in the country. Part of this controversy also stems from the fact that Chipotle claims to be dedicated to sourcing local ingredients wherever possible. It has to source its avocados from Mexico and Peru because these are tropical fruits that don’t grow in America, but there are plenty of grass-fed beef farmers across the country. For environmentally-conscious customers, this decision also doesn’t sit well because sourcing beef from Australia means that the company is trucking in beef from across the world, increasing the carbon footprint of each shipment. Sourcing beef locally from within the United States would use less fuel and have a smaller footprint for a company that claims to be dedicated to reducing its own environmental impact through the “Food With Integrity” motto. So, has the company changed its ways since this whole controversy? Perhaps, but there isn’t much evidence.
6. It Failed With a Standard Mexican Staple Food
Queso, that delicious hot cheese, is a staple of most Tex Mex cuisine. In Texas, queso is taken very, very seriously. But when Chipotle came out with its own queso, it didn’t fly with customers. People were taking to social media to label it as a “crime against cheese” and posted pictures of themselves throwing the cheesy dip right into the trash bin. Some complained about the consistency, complaining it wasn’t creamy enough or that it was too thin to really be considered queso. The backlash against Chipotle’s queso was so bad that it actually impacted the company’s bottom line – shares in the company actually fell by up to 3%. According to Business Insider, the number of people who were actually ordering queso in Chipotle restaurants took a nosedive after the first week. Just how does a Tex Mex restaurant screw up queso dip, a Tex Mex favorite? Well, that was because Chipotle decided to make a version without the use of processed ingredients in an attempt to stick with the company’s dedication to using real, high-quality ingredients. Typical queso is made from processed cheese, most commonly Velveeta, blended with canned tomatoes and green chilies. That processed cheese is what gives queso its signature texture and dipping capability. However, Chipotle’s version was made from aged cheddar, tomatoes, tomato paste, and a handful of other “real” ingredients. But when you melt down aged cheddar, it doesn’t have the same stabilizers that processed cheese does, and the consistency ultimately fails. Since the backlash erupted, Chipotle has changed its recipe. While many people still believe the texture is off for dipping purposes, it’s a great addition to a burrito or a bowl, where the texture doesn’t make a substantial difference.
5. There is a “Secret Menu”
Ok, so it’s not exactly a secret menu. In fact, it’s more of a collection of menu hacks. But they can be game-changers, especially if you eat at Chipotle often and want to save yourself a bit of money (or justify spending the extra cash for guacamole). Ask for your burrito bowl with chips on the bottom instead of the usual rice and then get your usual toppings on top. This way, you get a nice bowl of loaded nachos. Rumor has it that another way you can get yourself a plate of nachos is by ordering a kids’ taco kit and some chips, then adding the toppings from the kit onto those chips. You can also order a quesadilla with the toppings that a typical burrito would have. They come in the same flavors and blends that the burritos do. Perfect for when you’re in more of a snack mood than a meal mood. Here’s another hot tip: you can order taco shells and tortillas on the side. That means you can double up on the contents of your bowl, and get more food for your money. According to some anonymous employees, they’re more likely to add more of the mixins in a bowl because they aren’t constrained by the tortilla. So when you order your bowl with extra helpings, you can throw some in your tortillas or taco shells, and you’ll probably even have some leftovers. If you’re traveling with your food, this can also help to prevent your items from getting soggy. Some frequent customers have also reported getting taco shells on the side and breaking them up like chips instead of paying for extra chips. You’re welcome.
4. A “Chipotlane” May be in Your Future
Want your burrito faster than ever? No problem. Drive-thru restaurants have ultimately made it easier and more convenient for Americans to get their fast food fix. So, it’s never a surprise when a popular restaurant chain decides to throw their own hat in the ring and offer drive-thru options. Earlier in 2019, Chipotle announced that they were rolling out a new concept for their restaurants: drive-thru lanes, which they’re calling “Chipotlanes.” Here’s how it works: customers place their order through the app or on the website, and then head to the drive-thru window to pick it up. That means you don’t even need to interact with someone through the speaker. So, it’s more like a mobile order pickup lane where customers don’t need to leave their vehicles. The Chipotlanes are going to roll out slowly in the United States by the end of 2019, beginning with just a handful of stores. So far, the Chipotlanes have been added to restaurants in Texas, Tennessee, Ohio, and Massachusetts. In total, since the announcement was originally made at the beginning of the year, there have been about 20 Chipotlanes rolled out in the country. The next planned location is in Kissimmee, Florida, as part of the construction of a brand new restaurant that is scheduled to open at the end of November 2019. This will be the first Chipotlane in Florida, and will be located within a mile of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. If you’re wondering whether this drive-thru addition is going to affect wait times in the store, don’t worry about it. They’ve thought about that. Most Chipotle locations have two prep areas to help offset online or mobile orders as well as any catering orders that come up. There are already second lines in the store where people can go in to collect mobile orders. So, this whole process just eliminates the task of getting out of your car.
3. They Have a Partnership With Bellevue University
If you work at Chipotle and have an interest in business, you’re in the right line of work. The restaurant chain has a partnership with Bellevue University, where employees can take an online customized accelerated business degree. This program is only open to Chipotle employees and features a specialized curriculum tailored to the company’s business model and grow careers within the company. The course focuses on different scenarios and situations that arise at Chipotle. For example, some of the topics listed on the Chipotle website include marketing, people development, and teamwork skills. The program takes about 18 months to complete. Since the whole course is online, it can easily accommodate an employee’s work hours. Chipotle also has an educational assistance program that helps provide up to $5,250 in tuition assistance for its employee-students, as well as in-restaurant training credits that go toward the program. While they don’t cover the entire tuition, they do claim to make it more affordable for students to get these business degrees and become a stronger part of the Chipotle team. So, if you’re interested in being a manager at Chipotle, this is probably the course you’re going to want to take to work your way up the ladder.
2. Your Data May Not be Safe
Data protection is a big concern in today’s digitally-driven society, where a lot of what we do is conducted on the Internet. Unfortunately, some companies have been subject to data breach scandals and hackers. Chipotle has been through this twice now. In the spring of 2017, Chipotle announced that there had been a security breach at some of its locations. After an investigation, it was revealed that someone had used malware to hack into the restaurant’s point of sale system to steal card data from electronic payments. Hackers had used malware to steal peoples’ names, credit card numbers, and verification codes. In an effort to control the damage, Chipotle recommended that customers be on the alert for any suspicious charges and assured the public that they were going to implement more security with the help of reputable cybersecurity experts. However, this wouldn’t be the last time Chipotle encountered a data breach scandal. Just this year, Chipotle customers who used the app to order their favorite burritos reported that they were experiencing suspicious activity. Mainly, large orders were being placed through the app using their accounts without their permission, as if someone had stolen the customer’s password. It happened to quite a few people, some of which were venting their frustrations in numerous places on social media and claiming that these orders were totaling as high as a few hundred dollars. Chipotle claimed that they hadn’t experienced any type of data breach, but it’s clear people were hacking accounts to score some free food.
1. They’re Not Hopping on the Plant-Based Meat Bandwagon Anytime Soon
While fast-food joints across North America are quickly scrambling to add plant-based meats to their menu to keep up with the competition, Chipotle’s giving this one a pass. Many chains from Subway to Harvey’s has been quick to start implementing a plant-based burger or meat option, with more people than ever demanding vegan or plant-based options in their favorite restaurants. However, don’t expect this from Chipotle. Brian Niccol, Chipotle’s CEO, recently stated in an interview that he didn’t see a long-term future in the plant-based game for the company. Niccol also stated that Chipotle is dedicated to providing fresh ingredients, and it takes a lot of processing and “food chemistry” to create the popular plant-based options that are taking over the food industry. If you do want to stick to a vegan or vegetarian option while eating at Chipotle, there are already plenty of options. All of the tortillas, bowls, and wraps are vegan, so you just have to fill it with vegan or vegetarian ingredients like veggies and beans. Their signature guacamole, salsa, chips, and rice are all vegan as well, so those are safe to chow down on. There is also an organic tofu option available to add some more protein to your dish. Order the Sofritas, which is spicy tofu, to give your dish a kick without the meat.