Chipotle Restaurants and Customer Evangelism

I am a Chipotle evangelist. I love the food at these amazing Mexican restaurants. The meat is flavorful, tender, and tasty. The rice and beans are seasoned just so. And the Salsas are the best in the business. You can custom blend the ingredients to make the best tacos, burritos, or Mexican salads on the planet.

I heard about the restaurant chain in one of Seth Godin’s audio books. The story of Founder Steve Ells and his passion for gourmet food is one that all restaurant chains should follow. I have evangelized countless people about the great food at this fast growing organization.

That is why I am so upset with them right now.

Yesterday I visited my local store in Temecula. I ordered the hard shell tacos (they come in a group of four) and when asked what type of meat that I wanted in them responded, “One of each in the tacos”. The preparer scooped one of each type and passed the tacos to the salsa area. I had them put the same salsa on all of them. I was then rung up and the bill came to over 8 dollars. I questioned the bill (since I always order the tacos this way) and I was told that since I ordered the tacos with different kinds of meat I would be charged the individual taco price. What! There is no individual taco price on the menu.

The bill should have been in the five dollar range and since I had the audacity to order them with different kinds of meat I was charged over 8 dollars. A three dollar premium for choice? This doesn’t make any sense since they scoop the meat into the tacos right in front of you. It doesn’t take any more labor to scoop four types of meat than put four scoops of one type.

I was furious to say the least and, when questioned, the manager said, “that is our policy.”


I paid the bill and went out to my car. I pulled out my Treo browser enabled phone and tried to access the website. Since the website REQUIRES Flash and my phone is NOT Flash enabled I wasn’t able to get any contact info. I wasn’t able to access the site at all! I was really mad now.

I can’t believe that in 2006 they don’t have a way for you to OPT OUT of the Flash intro and access a normal text web site.

I personally want Steve Ells to know that this is unacceptable and that this Chipotle evangelist is mad.

When I got home, I was finally able to access the site and through trial and error found the contact page. I left them a note and I hope they will respond back.

Note to the Chipotle web designer… your Full Flash site is not intuitive.

When you are an evangelist for a product you take pride in telling other people about the experience. You put your name and reputation on the line. You share your unique story. It’s even more important when you tell them the creation story of the product.

I hope the marketing people at Chipotle are listening.

Give us choice and give us an accessible website.


Enough said…

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  1. says

    We drive out of our way to get to the closest Chipotle (nearly 30 min) – driving past at least three other Mexican restaurants. I know it makes me a fan and probably an evangelist since we’ve told people about it as well.

    They could at least charge as though it was the most expensive meat in all the tacos and be in the $5 range.

    And I agree – their website is horrid. I don’t need shimmering, vibrating, sound-effect-laden. Seems to be working a bit too hard to be hip and trendy. Wouldn’t it make better sense to have the website model the story and the experience of the stores?

    Keep us updated on how quickly you hear back from them…will also be interesting to see what they say.

  2. says

    Thanks for the reply, Russ. Usually I would let something like this go, but when it got to the third level (overcharge, manager refusing to take care of the problem, and website being non-accessible) I thought I had better say something about it. If this had been a serious matter like food poisoning, I would be livid not to be able to get contact info through their website.

    I am very interested in customer evangelism and I think companies ought to know when things aren’t right. Recently I’ve seen some new companies taking on the Chipolte model of offering gourmet food at reasonable prices. We have a new restaurant nearby called “Noodles” that is offering amazing pasta in the $5-$7 dollar range. It has a Chipolte look and feel, and customization is key.

    With a sit down meal at popular restaurants like Applebees nearing the $18-20 range with tax and tip, this new restaurant model should prove to be very popular. They just need to make sure they take care of their customers.


  3. says

    Ahhh…Noodles….we have one only 5 min from the house. I became a regular there way too quickly when it opened.

    I do like the trend of the $5-7 range of restaurants because the food at the Applebees, Chili’s, etc is just getting tired. It’s almost hard to tell their menus apart and you get much better tasting food from the Noodles and Chipotle-style restaurants.

    The lack of excitement in the Applebees, Chili’s has made me take up cooking — I can spend less than $20 on ingredients and have a better-tasting meal that feeds the family.

    But when we eat out — we want Chipotle or Noodles. You’re right – they need to take care of their customers or they become another Applebees – nothing special.

  4. chuck says

    Thanks for sharing the story – in your case it had a decent ending :)

    Do you mind posting the email you sent?


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