Chipotle Rocks with an Eye on Customers
Posted by Becky Carroll on September 5, 2007
I love it when companies put themselves in their customers’ shoes. Chipotle Mexican Grill has a flexible approach that helps them meet the needs of their customers in a very cost-effective manner.
I recently tried Chipotle for the first time. Chipotle is a fast food restaurant using gourmet ingredients to create a delicious meal. They serve up what they call “food with integrity”. Per their website,
“It’s a philosophy that we can always do better in terms of the food we buy. And when we say better, we mean better in every sense of the word- better tasting, coming from better sources, better for the environment, better for the animals, and better for the farmers who raise the animals and grow the produce.”
When someone goes out to a restaurant to eat lunch or dinner at a “fast food” restaurant, they have certain needs (which aren’t usually met, by the way!). These include freshness of food (should be maximized), wait time for food (should be minimized), ability to place “special orders”, and something the kids will eat! Let’s look at how Chipotle looks at this part of the customer experience.
The food is very fresh, and it is definitely a “have it your way” kind of place. They offer a limited number of items on their menu, and you can then pick and choose what kind of meat, veggies, sauces, and other items you want to add to your burrito/taco/salad. You do this in a very easy way – by going down the line of ingredients and telling the server what you want put in your burrito, and how much of each ingredient you want. This makes it very cost effective for Chipotle, as well as quick for the customer (no more long waits for “special orders”). It is great for customer satisfaction!
By using this type of approach, one can also have their food made fresh, on the spot. No more eating a burrito that has been sitting under the heat lamps.
Another advantage of this “build it yourself” approach is the ability to cater to kids. Chipotle doesn’t have a kids menu but has what they call a “parents’ menu”. This works because it is easy for Chipotle to put together whatever looks good to your kids! They just go down the ordering line and say what they want or don’t want. Chipotle does list a few ideas on the slip of paper which is the parents’ menu. It also has an official heat guide to the salsas and meats they offer (“kid-approved by Evan Tarry, age 9”). Way to go!
Word of Mouth Marketing
When Chipotle first opened in Denver in 1993, they didn’t have a lot of money to spend on marketing. Owner and Steve Ells decided to give away burritos to attract customers (it worked!). Chipotle still uses this technique to great effect. According to this Business Week article, when Chipotle opened a store in midtown Manhattan last summer, they gave away 6,000 burritos at a cost of $35,000. They now had 6,000 new evangelists gained at a much cheaper cost than taking out an article in The New York Times.
In fact, Chipotle spends less on advertising per year than McDonald’s does in 48 hours. They want their customers to spread the news about the restaurant in order to build trust. (Thanks to Womnibus Blog for the article tip!) There is also a fan-based blog called Chipotle Log (a blog with multiple contributors) with cool Chipotle tidbits. I especially liked this 2-part post of an interview with a Chipotle employee, now a college student, who has his own blog Chipotle Star.
One area where Chipotle could improve is customer conversation. They have a place on their website called Speak, where you can send in comments. I sent one in asking to speak with someone about writing this post. The initial response was very slow, and I was pointed to someone but never heard back from that person.
Asking for customer feeback is a good start. Chipotle has a great opportunity to continue the buzz from their word-of-mouth marketing by engaging in ongoing customer conversations. I hope they consider it! (Are you listening, Chipotle?)
Chipotle is tuned in to their customers in many ways. They have been able to take the fast food concept and turn it into something delicious and even somewhat meaningful. They have created a large fan base through their word of mouth marketing campaigns. They have delivered a fun, festive dining experience at their restaurants with original artwork, cool surroundings, and eclectic music (which can be streamed from their website). Chipotle seems to be a Customers Rock! company.
I look forward to hearing from someone at their Corporate offices to see how they are supporting that concept internally; of course, I will write about that if/when I learn more.