Chipotle lovers want their big-ass burritos back

Categories: Word of Mouth

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The Great Burrito War of 2009 has begun and, like the foil-wrapped monstrosities on which it is based, it's big, messy and is giving more than few people heartburn.

The trouble started when Chipotle Mexican Grill, the burrito restaurant chain born and bred in Denver, unveiled a new "Low Roller" menu and ad campaign in the metro area last month. That didn't sit will with the folks behind the feisty Denver advertising blog the Denver Egotist. Not only did they hate the new food items being offered, like single tacos and posole, they despised the insipid, penny-pinching marketing campaign that went along with the new menu. ("When the going gets tough, the tough eat single tacos," reads one local ad.)

The Denver Egotist wanted the billboard-sized burritos and ballsy slogans like "Burritos so big, you wanna ride 'em" back, and it wanted them back now. And, as it turns out, hell hath no fury like a bunch of ad guys deprived of their burritos.

First the Egotist developed a not-so-subtle Chipotle plea, which you can check out below, and posted the contact info for Chris Arnold, Chipotle's "Director of Hype, Hoopla and Ballyhoo" so marketing folks could pummel him with complaints.


Now they've unveiled, a website dedicated to trashing "everything... that's new about a fine establishment that started life in Denver." The site's collecting comments from readers like "The 30 word headlines on the new outdoor boards are shit" and anti-campaign proposals like the make-believe "Bring back the ads with balls" billboard shown above.

As the site's creators explain it, they're all about showing the love for a Denver icon: that big, beautiful, aluminum-clad burrito. "Be bold. Stand tough. Keep the old menu. Keep the old attitude," says an unidentified spokesperson for the Denver Egotist, which is all penned anonymously. "Go out there with your balls to the wall and say, strong and proud, that 'When the going gets tough, the tough eat big fucking burritos.' Tacos? Pozole? That's not for the tough, that's for weak, feeble pessimists."

But Chipotle isn't killing with its celebrated burrito branding, it's just looking to diversify, says Chipotle Ballyhoo Director Chris Arnold, who reports he's received a couple dozen ornery complaints courtesy of the Denver Egotist's campaign. "We are trying to demonstrate a better variety than we had before," he says. "One of the problems with having your advertising built around a tinfoil-wrapped burrito is that is reinforces that Chipotle is just a burrito place, and that is not in fact the case."

Arnold does offer some concessions to, however. Regarding the whole "Low Roller" concept, he now admits, "Maybe we overstepped it a bit in terms of price-driven advertising, which is something we haven't really done before. I don't know if we got it exactly right." The Low Roller menu isn't currently planned for any other cities, and its corresponding ad campaign is being phased out in Denver in favor of a new effort rolling out in several Chipotle markets nationwide. The new campaign's called "My Chipotle," and encourages Chipotle fans to submit video odes to their burrito obsessions.

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Could that include the Chipotle fans behind Why the hell not, says Arnold. "Instead of trashing the work we're doing and saying how we're straying from the brand... perhaps a more productive outlet would be to produce some spots and show us that we were wrong," he says.

Who knows, maybe the folks at the Denver Egotist will take Arnold up on his offer. Though if that happens, nobody at Chipotle should be surprised when videos start popping up on their site with slogans like "Your new ad campaign is made with 100 percent chicken shit."

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