Chipotle Mexican Grill has become one of the most popular and beloved restaurant chains in the United States. The franchise was founded in the early 90s, but they started to find massive success over the past decade. A desire for great burritos and tacos allowed it to eclipse many of its rivals and become a dominant force in the fast food industry. The quality of food impressed enough people all over the country for the demand of more locations. Each year over the past decade has seen the number of restaurants grow in a major way. Chipotle locations are found in most states and have become a fixture in places like malls and food courts for easy accessibility.
The menu is quite small for such a popular food chain, but it works perfectly for Chipotle. Burritos, tacos, salads and burrito bowls are the main options, which provide enough variety for different customers. There are also quite a few different types of meat and veggie options offered to round out the menu. They basically know what their customers like and only offer those things rather than going overboard.
However, there are still some secrets about Chipotle around the country. We will look at fifteen things we didn’t know about Chipotle restaurants across the United States along with five we don’t want to know.
20 Didn’t know: Quesarito available at certain locations
There have been rumors for years about a secret menu existing at Chipotle. The closest thing to confirming this has been one special item offered on certain occasions. Chipotle employees have been known to make the elusive quesarito dish for those that request it on slow days.
The employees will likely almost always shut down the request if your Chipotle location is busy or has a long line. However, some locations do offer the quesarito if asked for it on a slow day. The combination of quesadilla and burrito provides the perfect meal for quite a few people lucky enough to get it at Chipotle.
19 Didn’t know: Burrito wrapping class for new employees
Some locations are extremely specific about how they want their burritos made. The average person assumes there’s only one obvious way to fold the burrito to perfection. Chipotle employees manage to reach the flawless burrito folding result every time we take home a delicious burrito.
A few restaurants have a short class of sorts where new employees all witness how the other employees wrap a burrito. They are then expected to showcase how to do it with confirmation from the established employee. It is a short learning experience, but it allows Chipotle to continue satisfying customers with great burritos at these locations.
18 Didn’t know: Queso changed due to customer demand
High demand from customers saw Chipotle introduce queso to the menu in 2017. Chips have been offered on the menu for quite some time leading to customers requesting queso join the menu as well. The addition of queso was met with huge disappointment from Chipotle customers.
Many people described Chipotle’s initial queso as an embarrassment to cheese. The complaints didn’t fall on deaf ears as Chipotle worked hard to improve it. Customers have had positive responses to the updated queso recipe towards the end of 2017. Not everyone loves it, but the act to improve it proved Chipotle does listen to customer complaints.
17 Rather not know: Was sued for lying about calorie count
Chipotle likes to create a positive relationship with customers. This makes it a bigger issue when negative stories come out about lying to people purchasing their food. One terrible story to break featured a lawsuit about a huge lie regarding the calorie-count in a food item.
Chipotle added the chorizo to the menu in 2016 as a rare new addition at the time. A burrito featuring the chorizo and the ingredients blended with it was advertised at just 300 calories.The problem is that the burrito was a whopping 1,055 calories. Chipotle apologized claiming they meant the chorizo alone was 300 calories, but they received a class-action lawsuit for the false advertising. Don’t expect chorizo back on the menu any time soon.
16 Didn’t know: Many restaurants are equipped with solar panels
Chipotle tries to make decisions that provide a positive impact in small ways. One bold move saw them work with Standard Renewable Energy to install solar panels in 75 different restaurant locations. The project saw them do it with restaurants in Texas and Colorado.
An environmentally conscious decision received praise for trying to reduce their carbon footprint. Chipotle believed they are the largest direct producer of solar energy in the United States restaurant industry. The solar panels generate 500 kilowatts of electricity. People tend to enjoy eating more at places that do things they respect, and Chipotle certainly impressed customers with this move.
15 Didn’t know: Getting stiff competition in New York
Chipotle remains at the top of its field with very few high-end burrito fast food chains opening to compete. One source of competition has come in New York with Chipotle losing some customers to the Dos Toros restaurant. Both restaurants have similar decors and essentially the same menu.
However, many New Yorkers prefer Dos Toros for more ingredients and other fun perks. Dos Toros works with a lot of charities in the area and offers discounts. The pressure of a new chain growing in a major city has seen Chipotle NYC locations working with local businesses and charities as well to keep up with new competition.
14 Didn’t know: None of the restaurants are franchised
One rule that Chipotle keeps is that they don’t offer franchising. Many top-level food chains will offer franchise options for business owners in the food industry. Subway, KFC and Taco Bell are some of the top restaurant chains that do allow franchising of owners running their own locations.
All Chipotle locations in the United States and all over the world are owned by Chipotle. This is one reason you don’t see any major differences in each Chipotle location. It is meant to look the same with the vision of Chipotle management carrying over to every location as their own guideline to success.
13 Rather not know: 10,000 employees sued over wage theft
Another negative lawsuit story for Chipotle came when many current and former employees argued wage theft. Chipotle works hard to develop a reputation for treating their employees well, but this story completely changed that with such a negative story out there.
Over 10,000 Chipotle employees joined the lawsuit accusing Chipotle of wage theft. The common theme was that managers would request workers working the late shift to clock out at their designated time. However, they demanded the employees continue working extra hours until the store closed without the extra pay. Chipotle claimed this was a small problem with a few managers and have tried to end that issue.
12 Didn’t know: Generous discounts for trick or treaters
Halloween is one holiday tradition that Chipotle likes to get into the spirit for. The biggest tradition for Halloween is youngsters dressing in costumes and trick or treating to receive candy from neighbors and businesses. Chipotle decided to add their own twist on this along with offering adults the fun of a great value when dressing up.
Anyone in a costume to appear at a Chipotle location on Halloween over the past few years received a cheap burrito. It started with free burritos before demand made it $2 in 2016 and $3 in 2017.
The burrito Halloween trend is expected to continue this year, but there’s no word on what the exact discounted price will be.
11 Didn’t know: The Farm Team
There is a secret club of sorts for Chipotle that offers many fun perks. The Farm Team is the name of this invitation-only customer rewards program. It is considered extremely tough to join. A manager must invite you, and it is reported that they only get a select few of invites to offer up.
The Farm Team teaches its members about factory farming and other related topics that go into the Chipotle process. Free food, t-shirts and other fun items are offered occasionally to the people lucky enough to be part of this secret club. Every diehard Chipotle customer would likely consider it a joy to be a part of the Farm Team.
10 Didn’t know: Best managers get amazing bonuses
There have been many positive reports from employees regarding how Chipotle treated them. This is always a case by case basis with every location and working situation being different. However, managers are usually very happy to work for Chipotle if their locations are doing well.
Chipotle specifically wanted to create a rewards system that helps the most successful managers feel appreciated by the company. General managers specifically get rewarded for their role in the success. Perks like stock options and bonuses as high as $10,000 have seen general managers go out of their way to praise the working relationship with Chipotle.
9 Rather not know: Intentionally tries to rip you off with meat
One constant complaint about Chipotle is that many customers feel they don’t get nearly enough meat for their dollar. The meat choices of chicken, beef or pork are among the most popular options when getting a burrito or burrito bowl. Unfortunately, many customers are upset that they don’t get enough meat with the rice and beans dominating the dish.
Quite a few Chipotle employees have claimed that the paranoia of the upset customers is for good reason. Many Chipotle locations request their employees to underserve the meat, regardless of the price. Nights where a specific meat is running low will see everyone get skimmed on the meat.
8 Didn’t know: Restaurant music curated by DJ
The music played at Chipotle or any restaurant for that matter is likely something you don’t think too much about. Most people just want to get their order and leave or enjoy chatting with their friend while eating in at the establishment. However, the music that plays is very important background noise to the people that run the company.
DJ Christopher Golub from Brooklyn, New York is the person employed to curate a playlist of over 500 songs. The playlist is sent to all locations to use as the music customers hear when ordering their meals. Chipotle requests a playlist change every month allowing Golub to have a lot of work on his burrito bowl to finish.
7 Didn’t know: Celebrities get free cards
Many celebrities have a love for Chipotle as strong as the rest of us. However, their platform of fame allows them to get noticed by Chipotle easier. Quite a few famous people have used their love of Chipotle to get gift cards that allow them to order anything they want without a charge for however long the card entails.
Rapper Big Sean received a custom card after revealing he ate at Chipotle almost every day. Cardi B received free chips and guac for life after referencing her love of the snack in a song. Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and MLB star Bryce Harper are two other stars to receive free burritos for life.
6 Didn’t know: Doesn’t plan to ever change ‘minimalist design’
The décor of Chipotle allows it to stand out compared to many other restaurant chains. They don’t try to overdo it with too many gimmicks or constant changes. Many people describe the appeal of Chipotle as having a minimalist design that adds to the experience of eating there.
A lesser known fact is that this wasn’t an intentional idea. Chipotle initially didn’t have enough money to create a fancy style for their restaurants. It led to the minimalist eating experience and people enjoyed it as the restaurant grew into a huge national success. There are zero plans to change this despite the money coming in due to it being an important part of the legacy for Chipotle.
5 Rather not know: There are many places with better burritos
The reputation of having the best burritos and burrito bowls have allowed Chipotle to thrive. Not many Chipotle diehard customers will want to be told that there are better Mexican restaurants located everywhere in the United States.
There are some Chipotle enthusiasts that will admit the best thing about it is the convenience. The ability to order a tasty burrito at a fair price and get it within minutes of entering is the biggest reason for Chipotle’s success. Most locations have at least a handful of nearby Mexican restaurants that offer better meals, but Chipotle’s name value and convenience win out.
4 Didn’t know: Jason Mraz's California farm sends avocados to Chipotle
One of the most random things about Chipotle is a very beneficial relationship with a celebrity. Singer Jason Mraz operates his own farm in California, with avocados being the main product. There are about 30,000 pounds of fruit produced by Mraz’s farm each year.
Chipotle worked out a deal that sees them receive their avocados from Mraz’s farm to a San Diego location. Given the importance of guacamole at Chipotle, it is a great testament that Mraz’s farm produces high-quality avocados. This certainly would top the list of impressive hobbies from singers on their off-time.
Good luck topping the farmer with avocados delicious enough for Chipotle, Bruno Mars.
3 Didn’t know: Special burrito coins accepted as payment
The rumors of a burrito coin existing for Chipotle have been confirmed true throughout the years. These coins were given out as far back as 1998 as a reward for the loyal customers. The burrito coins have become popular online with sites like eBay offering them for sale.
Chipotle made it clear that they will still accept these rare burrito coins, but they are only good for one free burrito. The price is sometimes quite high on these websites due to how rare they are. It may be a better value to just hold on to the coin or sell it for money rather than collecting it for a burrito worth $10.
2 Didn’t know: Breakfast menu served at two locations
One common idea that customers are intrigued enough to request is a potential breakfast menu for Chipotle. Many fast food chains like McDonald’s, Taco Bell and White Castle found unique ways to add a breakfast option for those early morning customers.
Chipotle has yet to do that globally, but there are two unique locations that experiment with it. Baltimore-Washington International and Dulles airports have Chipotle locations that provide coffee at breakfast hours. One of them even serves frittatas as an item many are interested in. Despite testing out the idea there, Chipotle claims they won’t expand to breakfast any time soon.
1 Rather not know: Criminal investigation about Norovirus
A huge negative story about Chipotle to surface in 2015 featured an investigation regarding its role in starting a virus. One Chipotle location in Simi Valley, California was linked to the Norovirus outburst that impacted almost 300 people. Chipotle was hit with federal grand jury subpoena about the investigation.
There were many people to get hit with the virus that linked their eating habits back to that Chipotle location. Very little information was released about the investigation and it’s impossible to know what exactly happened. Chipotle likely considers this a win, given that the potential issues they would have faced if officially blamed for starting a virus with their food would have been catastrophic by comparison.
There has been other Norovirus related stories, but none received the same coverage.