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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Open Letter to Chipotle

We went to Chipotle last Sunday afternoon, my first time to a restaurant of that chain. It’s one of those made-to-order burrito places ala Qdoba, Habanero’s, etc. I’d heard good things about Chipotle so I thought I’d give it a try. It was your basic slightly upscale fast food experience – good meal, a little pricey, maybe a bit too much rice and not enough meat in the sandwich, no actual chipotle peppers or seasoning– false advertising! Overall not too bad, but it probably won’t make my A list.

Here’s what struck me about the place though – everywhere you look in the place you get hit with some message about how virtuous they are. Lord have mercy, I haven’t seen such over-the-top self-righteousness since I left Ann Arbor. When you’re standing in line, you’re treated to a sign featuring a lengthy discourse on their napkins. They’re brown, you see, which requires fewer chemicals & less processing. They’re also supposedly made from recycled materials, so be careful not to scrape your lips with part of a fender from an ‘89 Oldsmobile. In case you miss the sign, the napkins themselves are printed with a similar message, using, one would have to assume, organic soy-based ink that was not tested on animals or manufactured with underpaid third world labor.

Next to the menu boards, there’s a dissertation on how the livestock whose flesh fills the steam trays were raised - organic feeding, free range, no hormones, etc. I didn’t capture the whole message, but I do remember it as being awfully smug. It wasn’t mentioned anywhere how the animals were actually slaughtered prior to their conversion to carnitas and fajitas. I assume that Chipotle’s meat suppliers only butcher animals that they could convince to commit suicide (after registering to vote in Cook County, IL).

And in case you didn’t get the message while standing in line or ordering, the soft drink cups are emblazoned with even more propaganda. Mine had a bio of some guy whose mission it was to convince all Midwestern farmers to raise their crops organically. I assume he also provides counseling on how to cope with foreclosure.

So their marketing package seems to be focused on convincing guilt-ridden customers to pay $38 for four burritos, drinks, chips, and indulgences against the negative impact they just had on Mother Earth by eating a meal and living another day as an oppressive capitalist pig.

Anyway, here’s my open letter to Chipotle:

Dear Chipotle:

Get over yourself already!




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