For many, Chipotle is what fast food should be: tasty, ethically responsible, not too expensive, and reasonably healthy. While you might think that you know everything there is to know about this mega-chain, there’s actually a lot out there that you’re probably not aware of.
Chipotle was founded by Steve Ells, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, in 1993. He’d been inspired by the popular tacos and burritos he discovered in San Francisco’s Mission District while working there for chef Jeremiah Tower, and after securing an $85,000 loan from his mother, he opened the first Chipotle in a former ice cream shop near the University of Denver campus.
Ells estimated that he’d need to sell about 100 burritos per day to be profitable, but after a month he was selling more than 1,000. Knowing he had a good thing on his hands and fueled by an investment from his father and a Small Business Administration loan, he jettisoned his original idea of opening a fine-dining restaurant and focused on expansion, opening a second store in 1995 and a third shortly thereafter.
Without an investment from an unlikely source, however, the chain never would have grown to its current massive scale. In 1998, McDonald’s made its first investment in the company, and by 2001 it was a majority shareholder. There were 16 locations in 1998, and by 2005 there were more than 500. McDonald’s invested about $360 million into Chipotle in total, and when it divested itself in 2006 (as part of a larger effort to divest itself from all “non-core business restaurants” including Boston Market), its investment had grown to $1.5 billion.
Today, Chipotle’s stock is worth around $550 per share, and in 2012 the company pulled in a net income of $278 million. It’s one of the fastest-growing companies of its type in the world, and everything from their menu, to the restaurant design, and the commitment to source its ingredients ethically has inspired a new generation of fast-casual dining. To learn some fascinating facts about the chain that will go down in history as one of the most revolutionary, read on.
They Own Shophouse
Chipotle owns Shophouse, a D.C.-based chain of “Southeast Asian Kitchens.”
There’s a Free Burrito Coin
Nobody is really sure if they’re still being issued or what you need to do in order to get one, but once upon a time, Chipotle would reward loyal customers with a real coin that could be redeemed for a free burrito.
This article was originally published April 16, 2014.