How To Thrive In This Economy (or, TLT goes Chipotle-crazy)

While other businesses are closing doors, laying off people, and spending untold thousands redesigning logos, Chipotle is thriving. How is this company succeeding when so many others are failing?

I’m not an economist or business analyst, but I am a consumer, and I believe it comes down to their commitment to three things: quality, customer service, and community.

This isn’t going to be one big commercial for what is essentially a fast food chain, but I have been a fan for awhile, and at a recent media luncheon I learned quite a few things that impressed me.


Chipotle makes a concerted effort to buy locally and naturally. The only thing that keeps them from doing so is the production capacity of the nearby farmers. To increase that they have a partnership with Niman Ranch, a Midwestern cooperative committed to natural and free-range farming. Every time a new Chipotle is opened another family farm joins the co-op, increasing the economic backbone of that community.

At the media luncheon we watched them make their famous guacomole from scratch. What I used to avoid because I thought it was filled with fats I can now order guilt-free. Avocado, citrus, red onion, jalapeno, salt – that’s it. In addition to the guacomole every item in every restaurant is prepared fresh daily.

Customer Service

Chipotle’s received awards for its customer service. One of the reasons is their online ordering system. You can order directly from your office and pick it up. They have a secondary food line in the kitchen specifically for online orders. Besides operating efficiently, every time I’ve been in one they all just seem so darn happy.


Their commitment to community is probably what impressed me the most. No matter how skilled they are at inventory, restaurants always have leftover food. Since Chipotle makes everything fresh daily that could mean a lot goes to waste. Instead, they give it away to help people who need it the most. Several Chicago locations donate their overstock to Pacific Garden Mission, a shelter for the homeless. This allows the mission to make stew for up to 600 people every day.

That all adds up to…

The day the Logan Square location opened everyone got a free burrito. And soda. And guacomole…basically whatever they wanted. My friend and I arrived early and stood in a quickly moving line ushered through by happy smiling people. By the time we left – all of 10 minutes later – the line was stretched outside the door. Now, everybody loves free food, but to stand outside in the middle of winter for a burrito is a testament to the loyalty this chain engenders. Hopefully other companies will learn that those three items – quality, customer service, and community – are the keys to success, in any economy.







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