You Lied To Me Chipotle. You Told Me You Were Different.
Ok, let me go ahead and say it right now. And I will say it out loud, just so that it seems more real to me…I have an unhealthy relationship with Chipotle Mexican Grill. Yes, you, you “wolf in sheep’s clothing” fast casual chain restaurant. I am no longer falling for your “but we are the healthy fast food option” ploy. Responsibly farmed, non-GMO, wholesome goodness prepared by people who really care. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it. You love food as much as I do and you want me happy and healthy so I can continue to visit your restaurants.
An unassuming, innocent-looking logo. It sure doesn’t look like it hides nearly a day’s worth of calories.
I saw the documentary. I read the artfully crafted little stories on your recycled bags and beverage cups. I spent way more time on your website than I should have, all the while helping to improve your pages-viewed-per-user and duration on the site stats that will inevitably show up on your Google analytics account. I know what you are all about and quite truthfully, I am a bit cynical. I am beginning to think that you guys are pulling one over on everyone—but not me because I have you all figured out.
Now that we have my ever-changing opinion nailed down—at least for now—I want to take a closer look at what you are doing to us, the “we can’t make a decision about anything unless the advertising world or federal government tells us what to think” free-thinking American public. You might have the rest of the sheep fooled, but not me. I know that you and your founder, Steve Ells, had a grand vision to make a little homegrown taco stand into a profitable, publicly-traded, Mexican-style food empire. I know that it took an eight-year partnership and major investment from a little-known (that is sarcasm people…sarcasm) fast food brand by the name of McDonald’s to help you get to more than 1,700 global locations. But it all worked out and now you are the darling of the QSR (quick serve restaurants) universe.
You and your barbacoa (and I am virtually certain you do not slow cook the entire cow in a hole in the back parking lot of your locations like is traditionally done) are posers. You are about as authentically Mexican as Chef Boyardee and Mama Mancini are authentically Italian. But, being a brand-loving (and brand working) consumer such as I am, I tip my hat to you. Well played Chipotle, well played. I can virtually watch the yoga-pants wearing, crossfit-loving healthy eaters flock to your conveniently placed locations. About the only thing I think that you aren’t doing is actually opening satellite locations in the lobbies of the myriad fitness center chains. You should think about doing that. Seriously. It would work well…You’re welcome. I mean, who doesn’t want a protein smoothie and burrito post-workout combo?
And why am I am so worked up? Because you have most people fooled into believing that you are the healthy alternative. But you and I both know that you are completely full of it…full of fat and calories. Where’s my proof you ask? Well Chipotle…don’t mind if I do. I will now plead my case and state my argument, complete with nutritional information that you so graciously provide to me on your Chipotle Nutrition Information
While this isn’t a photo of my actual burrito, it is a police-artist sketch of the con man who had me believe he was a healthy alternative to other fast food.
Healthy you say? Well let’s just say—hypothetically of course—that I happened to visit one of your establishments today (I did) and perhaps I ordered a burrito (I did) and perhaps I thought to myself “this is so much better for me than the McDonald’s that is across the street (I did). So as I stepped to the counter and ordered my chicken burrito with brown rice, cheese, beans, hot salsa and guacamole I continued to think “this is so healthy for me”. Little did I know. You wrapped it up so nicely in that shiny tin foil and placed it in your little red basket. How could something so innocent looking be bad for me? Well, how about weighing in at a robust 1275 calories? And mind you, that is without chips.
If you add those, you are having a “healthy” lunch of 1,845 calories. Nearly a day’s worth of calories for a normal adult.
Now let’s just suppose that I had decided to visit the Golden Arches across the street. I could have (and this is hypothetically speaking, of course) order a double quarter pounder with cheese, a large fry and a vanilla milkshake and checked in at only 1,910 calories. That’s right. You are reading those numbers correctly. I would have only added an additional 65 calories had I decided that Ronald McDonald and his cronies were a better choice than that “healthy-food” restaurant Chipotle. And I could have shared my happiness with the Hamburglar, Grimace and that scary clown Ronald. And McDonald’s has a ball pit. What do you have Chipotle? Just reading comprehension exercises on your drink cups. And no one needs that.
Now I am not casting stones at Chipotle merely for capitalizing on the healthy food craze. I certainly am not going to say that I don’t have respect for their business model. I am not doubting their business practices. Sustainable farming is good for everyone. I am just a little tired of the constant fat-shaming of all other quick serve restaurants while our ole’ pal Chipotle gets a pass. Sure, there are healthy options at Chipotle. But there are healthy options at McDonald’s too (devoid of taste I am certain, but that’s besides the point). I just want to try to shed some light on our altruistic pals from Denver.
Now I am not the first person to try to take Chipotle to task for their burritos. MSNBC did it too. But that was some time ago and has since gone largely forgotten. I just wanted to resurrect this argument. I don’t think that Chipotle is afraid of a random blog that no one besides my closest of friends reads though. And let’s be honest, my friends are probably not reading this anyhow. Unless they are doing it with their iPhones, enjoying free WiFi and an 1,800 calorie burrito at their neighborhood Chipotle.
*In the interest of full disclosure, I have eaten Chipotle for one meal in each of the last three consecutive days and there is a good chance I will have it again this week—it’s only Monday as I write this.