The Do's And Don'ts Of Eating At Chipotle

Chipotle is a homegrown success story with a strong brand. According to CNBC, chief marketing officer Chris Brandt has stated that the company's core mission is to be "visible, relevant, and loved." Interestingly enough, both Brandt and Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol both used to work at another fast-casual Mexican-inspired chain: Taco Bell. So what compelled them to make the switch? It was Chipotle's progressive culture and commitment to sustainability at the brand. Chipotle focuses more on improving its own business practice and ensuring customer satisfaction, rather than worrying about one-upping other restaurants.

This strategy has paid off for Chipotle, as it's grown from just one restaurant at the University of Denver to a worldwide phenomenon with thousands of different locations (via Live About). The chain now has a large social media following and millions of dedicated, passionate customers. That said, how can you make sure that each visit to the burrito magnate is the best it can be? While we are, of course, Chipotle enthusiasts ourselves, we've scoured the depths of the Internet for the best possible Chipotle hacks to make sure you always walk away with a full stomach (and hopefully a full wallet, too).

Do join the Chipotle rewards program

If you join the Chipotle reward program, you can get free stuff. Who doesn't like free stuff? According to Chipotle Rewards, once you provide some simple information like your name, email, phone number, and date of birth, you are ready to start earning rewards. You even get a free order of chips and guac just for joining the team. Going forward, the best way to make purchases is through the Chipotle app, but you can also sign into your account on the Chipotle website or scan the app in the store.

For every $1 you spend at Chipotle, you can get 10 reward points, so they can add up pretty quickly. As you gain points, you can use them to cash in on some free Chipotle (which is the whole point, obviously), as well as other cool freebies like exclusive Chipotle merchandise. You can grab a pair of chips and guac slides, a cool tote bag, and even a hat. But it doesn't stop there — on your birthday, you get a free burrito! To make sure you have access to this special perk, make sure you sign up at least a couple of weeks before the big day.

Don't get frustrated by the invisible line ahead of you

Online orders are on the rise and Chipotle has been impacted. Chipotle is well aware of the frustration that digital orders can cause customers who have chosen to buy their food in person. You might think that you are the only person in the entire building, but find yourself standing at the front of the counter for longer than necessary. The employees say they will be right with you, but they are instead frantically trying to keep up with the constant barrage of online orders. Sometimes, the urge to eat Chipotle might strike you unexpectedly so you don't feel like ordering ahead, or maybe you want to pay with cash which you can't do online.

No matter the reason, according to QSR Magazine, Chipotle is already fixing the problem with the introduction of "Chipotlanes." These drive-thru lanes are pick-up only, which will hopefully keep the flow of customer traffic moving through the restaurant at a more efficient pace. The idea is that these lanes will consistently provide more value and shorter wait times for everyone.

Do be careful of how you phrase asking for more food

When ordering at Chipotle, it's important to be careful about complaining about portion sizes. There is a big difference between "can I have just a little more please?" and paying for a double portion of meat. Unfortunately, Chipotle has been cracking down on its serving sizes. CFO Jack Hartung credits the rise of digital orders during the COVID-19 lockdowns with this change. "Our portion sizes are much more consistent because there's not somebody pointing at every single pan," he told crowds at a conference, per Eat This, Not That.

TikToker put the Mexican chain's claim to the test and reviewed a burrito he purchased online. Chipotle states that a standard serving of chicken is supposed to be four ounces, but Jon's bowl, which was supposed to be a double order of eight ounces, is barely three. Other TikTok users chimed in to share their similar experiences, with one stating in the comments, "I stopped ordering chipotle on DoorDash cause they always do this." When ordering in person, you have a bit more control over all of this. You can ask, "is that four ounces?" if you feel like you've received a skimpy portion of protein. For vegetables and salsas, just asking politely for a little more usually does the trick.

Don't ask for items out of order

The Chipotle line is laid out in a very specific way. When ordering your meal, if you want to avoid annoying both the employees and everyone in line around you, don't ask for sour cream before you have your rice and beans sorted, as they are at opposite ends of the line. According to research done by Business Insider, there are more than 655,360 different combinations of ways to create an order at Chipotle. This is substantially higher than the 65,000 combinations claimed by Chipotle in a recent annual report, but the report failed to account for all the different salsa options.

All of these combinations are laid out in a highly effective way, however. The rice and beans, which are heavier and could weigh down other lighter items, should go first to create a solid base for the meal. Then, you have your protein followed by lighter items which are considered toppings, like salsas, queso, shredded lettuce, and so on. It's important to follow the flow of the ordering line for both maximum tastiness and also not to get in everyone else's way by doubling back on yourself.

Do ask for a tortilla on the side

Getting a burrito limits the amount of food you can get. We've all been there: standing awkwardly at the end of the Chipotle line watching the employee trying to fold a massive amount of filling into a tortilla that's bursting at the seams. In fact, this is such a common phenomenon that comedian Bo Burham even wrote a song recalling his experiences during his "Make Happy" comedy special.

To avoid this awkward problem, instead, just ask for a tortilla on the side instead. According to Urban Taste Bud, you get more food without having to ask for larger portions. Whether you eat in-house or take your food home, you can just take your tortilla (all wrapped in foil so it will stay warm) and DIY your own burrito. Typically, you'll find that even if you fill your new burrito to the brim, you will still have a second portion of food available in the bowl to enjoy, too.

Don't forget that Chipotle can cater your next group function

We often think of Chipotle just as a place to grab a quick bite during lunch hour. However, we shouldn't forget that the casual dining giant also caters to large gatherings like work lunches, team-building events, fundraisers, and more. You could just order this much Chipotle for yourself, though. That would also totally be okay. According to Chipotle Catering, orders start for a minimum of six and go up to about 200. Prices start at just about nine dollars a person. You don't need to plan too far ahead, either, as all orders only need to be put in a minimum of 24 hours in advance. Whether your group is vegan, vegetarian, or even gluten-free, there are options for them, too.

Fans who have used Chipotle to cater their events seem to be satisfied with the quality overall. In fact, some customers order from the chain again and again because they appreciate the tasty, convenient food and the great feedback from their own guests (via Adventure Mom). The best part is that if there are any leftovers from your event, then you get to take some extra Chipotle home to enjoy. It's really a win-win.

Do explore the number of lifestyle bowls available

One of the best things about Chipotle is its versatility when you have special dietary requirements. Whether you are on a keto kick, currently doing a Whole30, or prefer to eat Paleo, you can stop into the restaurant and have a satisfying meal without any fuss. Chipotle launched a full range of lifestyle bowls to keep up with their customer's eating habits and health goals.

The chain introduced plant-based protein options for vegetarian and vegan folks, like Plant-Based Chorizo and Sofritas. It also changed the preparation process for several different items, like swapping the oil used to cook the chicken so it would be Whole30 compliant. Chipotle has long been thought of as a relatively healthy fast-casual place to eat, and at the very least health-conscious. With these options, they're clearly working to live up to that reputation.

Don't order a kids meal and complain about the portion size

If you're not very hungry, ordering a kids meal from Chipotle might work in a pinch. But the meal is not very much food, so if you have any sort of appetite, you will not be satisfied. Users on r/Chipotle expressed concern about being judged for ordering off the kids menu as adults. However, the general consensus seems to be that the employees don't really care if you are a kid or not. There isn't anything wrong with an adult preferring the meal and it's not against policy to serve it to you. That said, users warn that you might walk away still feeling hungry after eating one.

According to Snack Girl, ordering a kids meal can save the average adult about $3 off their usual order total. It comes as two deconstructed tacos. You get two corn or flour tortillas, three toppings (including one meat), as well as a small drink with chips or fruit. For a quick snack, this works, but most of us are probably just better off ordering from the regular menu.

Do look for Chipotle locations when you're traveling abroad

The USA-based chain is going global, so you can enjoy it on your next vacation. According to Day Translations, Chipotle isn't just taking over the United States, but it is working its way into the hearts of people from other countries, too. In order to do this, the chain needed to make just a few tweaks to ensure its success abroad. For example, in the United Kingdom, most folks call cilantro coriander. So Chipotle changed the name of its popular cilantro-lime rice to coriander-lime rice to better suit the market. In addition, Chipotle dialed back the spices it uses in its dishes to appeal to the British palette.

Now, Chipotle has locations across the U.K., Canada, France, and even a few locations in Germany (via ChainXY). American TravelLeah visited a Chipotle in Frankfurt, Germany to see how it compares to back home. The restaurant is set up exactly like any location in the USA would be with the salad dressings and tortillas at the front of the line, followed immediately by the rice and bean options. She noted that it was a great treat to find a piece of home while on vacation.

Don't throw a fit because the guac is extra

Guac has always been extra. The public should be used to this by now. When ordering at Chipotle, don't bring it up to the employees, as they don't make the prices. If you really want some free guac, go for the vegetarian options so you can have it for free in place of meat protein. According to Medium, charging extra for guac is actually a pretty smart, dynamic pricing model that keeps the overall costs down for most customers.

Think of it this way: When you buy something at Chipotle, you are essentially just paying for the meat. Whether you skip rice and beans or get all three salsa options, the price stays the same. Two guests going through the line at the same time are going to walk away with radically different portion sizes and pay the same price, depending on their topping preferences. This is because these toppings don't actually cost the company a lot of money. However, what tends to be a bit more expensive is avocados and meat. By offering the majority of food free to guests and charging just a little bit more for premium add-ons, everybody wins.

Do remember that you can get half and half meat

One of the best things about eating at Chipotle is the freedom to customize your own meal. And this extends to when you are feeling hungry for a less common combination. If you can't decide between chicken and carnitas, it's okay. You don't have to choose. You can just get both. Users on the r/Chipotle board are quick to remind us that combining meat is actually pretty straightforward. When asked which protein you would like, just state "half chicken and half beef, please." When you get to the register, the employee will just ring you up for whatever protein choice is more expensive.

It's important to be upfront about asking for half and half. If you wait until the worker has already piled your burrito high with chicken and then ask for carnitas, too, you are going to get hit with a double protein charge at the end of the line. On the other hand, if you do want a double protein bowl and are after two full four-ounce portions, you might order exactly like this to ensure you get all the meat you will be charged for.

Don't bring up the company's history of E. coli

If you are worried about food safety at Chipotle, then you probably should just not eat there. However, Chipotle has such a strong fan base that this typically isn't a problem. According to CNBC, the Mexican chain experienced an outbreak of E. coli-related food poisoning in 2016. Yet even amid the news of people getting sick, Chipotle's profits didn't take too big of a blow. Per restaurant industry analyst Bonnie Riggs, Chipotle's biggest percentage of customers are young adults, who are more willing to look past fears regarding food safety.

We can typically find E. coli bacteria in most people's intestines, but certain strains are quite dangerous, as they can cause severe dehydration through vomiting and diarrhea. These strains are passed to humans through eating meat or drinking raw milk, as sometimes the bacteria from the animal's intestines can be transferred (per Mayo Clinic). Typically, the risk is lowered through proper food preparation. In the end, Chipotle did have to pay out a $25 million dollar fine, but the company is adamant its food safety practices are up to industry standards and constantly monitored (via Food Safety News).