WTF?!!? A new menu at Chipotle

Categories: Sheehan (RIP)

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I have to extend an apologetic hand to both my fellow Westworder Joel Warner and, by extension, the Highland Mommies -- the web message board group in North Denver; See, at Monday's editorial meeting, Mr. Warner brought up a rumor he'd heard that Chipotle was changing its menu. There weren't many details and the story had come to him through a posting on the Mommies message board -- two things which immediately made me call bullshit on the entire thing.

"Chipotle hasn't changed their menu in fifteen years, Joel," I said, wagging my finger at him for his rumor-mongering.

"But the post I read said..."

"There is no way this is true and, also, you're an idiot," I concluded. At which point, I sat back in my chair, content that I'd put an end to Joel's ill-informed gossiping, and promptly fell asleep.

Cut to two days later, and what should arrive in my mailbox? An invite from Chris Arnold, Chipotle's Director of public relations. It read: "If you find yourself with a Chipotle jones any time soon, try the chicken pozole (new, testing in Denver, and really, really good). Will be everywhere in Denver by the end of the week."

I immediately got Arnold on the blower and asked him what was going on.

Had the world gone mad? For fifteen years, Chipotle has been a constant beacon -- an unchanging menu in a storm of seasonality, market-driven mash-ups and freakish fusion nonsense. (Click the following links for instructions on how to build a burrito and for secrets of Chipotle's salad dressing.)

Not only that, but Chipotle's menu was damn near perfect. A few different things, all essentially made from the same even fewer things. It was a model of restraint. At first, I thought it must be an April Fool's joke. But Arnold assured me that it was very much real.

"We are testing a new menu in Denver," he said, telling me how the company had been doing some fairly heavy-duty research around the end of last year and had discovered that a lot of their regular customers (people who eat at their local location once, twice, sometimes three times in a week) just didn't understand the variety available on Chipotle's menu. They would come in, Arnold explained, and order the same thing every time -- never even bothering to look any further than the burrito they'd been eating every week, for years.

So here's what's happening. Local Chipotle outlets will, over the next week or so, be rolling out a newly re-structured menu. There will be pozole in a couple different varieties and a kid's menu (which was always available, but had to be asked for). The existing menu will be "reconfigured" (Arnold's word) in order to showcase the diversity of plates available through a careful reading of the board. And there will also be a new section offering smaller portions at low prices -- single tacos, for example, served a la carte.

"We're calling it our 'low-roller' menu," Arnold told me, laughing. "The days of the high-roller look like they're going to be over for awhile, so this was our answer."

He also confirmed that Chipotle's menu really hasn't changed at all in fifteen years. The products might have (organic this and local that), and some of the presentations (burrito bowls), but this truly is the first time since Steve Ells set down roots in Denver that the menu has gone through a significant alteration or addition.

So my humblest apologies to both Warner and the Highland Mommies who had this story a day or two before I did. I regret laughing. I regret the several off-color jokes I made at the Mommies' expense. And next time someone comes to me with some crazy story of the world being turned upside down, I promise that I will actually make a couple phone calls before I dismiss it as utter nonsense.

Of course, if this really does turn out to just be an April Fool's Day gag, I'm gonna be pissed.


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