Chipotle is not your stereotypical fast food restaurant chain. After experiencing Chipotle one time, you will forever be done with the regret that often follows eating the traditional fast food burger and fries. Founded in 1993 in Denver, Colorado, Chipotle Mexican Grill has grown from a single, small restaurant to a worldwide phenomenon with over 1600 outlets in 44 U.S. states and 4 different countries.
While Chipotle is classified in the fast casual segment of the dining industry, you would never know while eating it. You won’t experience the typical “regret factor” that makes you question your fast food decision 45-minutes later when you’re trying to digest. That’s because they make good on their promise to use organic, fresh ingredients and naturally raised meat – as reflected in the company’s mission statement: Food With Integrity. This mission is further brought to life with vegetarian options such as vegetable burritos, salads, and Sofritas (shredded tofu braised with chili and spices).
There’s also an intriguing mystery about Chipotle’s menu that many customers (except the extremely loyal) may not know. There is a secret menu. This menu has interesting options which one cannot find on the standard restaurant menu, such as Quesaritos and Burritodillas. This has created compelling interest for loyal brand fans known as “Chipotle addicts”, like myself, who are looking for a new experience each time we go to Chipotle. When ordering off the secret menu, the friendly employees might even give you a knowing smirk or wink congratulating you for being an “expert”. These “secret” additions to Chipotle’s menu, as well as their interesting packaging which contains “passionate ramblings” such as, “I think we could be really good together”, paired with a picture of a burrito, is a TWIST in the fast food business which separates them from most other fast food competitors.
Chipotle also stands out from the rest of the fast food shops thanks to its use of technology for an easier, more customer-friendly experience. If you are worried that the line will be too long or if you’re in a rush, you can use their mobile “Chipotle Ordering” app to give your order in advance. And there’s always the more traditional option to phone in and place your order.
Another important characteristic that Chipotle has which differs it from the rest of its competitors is their casual, yet vibrant atmosphere. In every Chipotle you can always count on lively music like reggae or salsa, or other up-beat, fast-paced music to go along with friendly employees who can make your day brighter.
Chipotle appeals to a wide variety of customers but seems to have a special spot in the hearts of teenage boys such as myself. Their recent prom promotion is a great example of how well they know their target market. Knowing that it is prom season and that Men’s Warehouse will be filled with tuxedo-renting, burrito-craving teenage boys, They partnered with Men’s Warehouse to give each buying customer a coupon good for a Men’s Warehouse discount and a free order of chips and guacamole at Chipotle.
Three things you can learn from Chipotle to TWIST with your own brand:
- Don’t just promise a differentiated benefit – deliver on it with every touch point.
- Create secret rituals that can connect with your customers to make them feel special and want to be brand ambassadors.
- Look for unusual partnerships that are trying to reach the same target audience for partnering marketing opportunities.
Chipotle has a used a number of techniques in order to expand their business, but simply by being unique and reliable Chipotle has sprung forward and now competes (and holds it’s own) in the same arenas as some of the largest names in the business.
About the author:
Austin Glickstern is a BrandTwist intern and a senior graduating from Dobbs Ferry High School, NY. For the next four years he will be attending the University of Connecticut where he will study Business. Some of Austin’s hobbies include playing sports, watching movies, and going to Chipotle often for a couple of huge burritos.
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