Chipotle: Building More Than Just Burritos!

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One thing that most hungry Chipotle patrons must have noticed, standing in line to get a tasty burrito is Chipotle’s commitment to “Food with Integrity”. It’s not just fine print on their menus or some words tucked away on their website that is hard to find. It’s there, right in front of you, on the menu board, in large text, on their soft drink cups, everywhere you can experience Chipotle. They never fail to let their customers know what they are doing to sourcing better food that is good for them and the environment.

Late last month Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG) announced, that it expects to use more than 10 million pounds of produce from local farms this year, up from its 2010 goal of about 5 million pounds and their local produce will be grown on farms within 350 miles of the restaurants where it will be served.

Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle says –

“While sourcing produce locally can be difficult — particularly in regions with short growing seasons — we continue to find like-minded suppliers to allow us to serve this better food. Not only is local produce fresher and better tasting, but it also helps support the environment and regional farming communities around the country.”

Chipotle is committed to serving good food and is proud of it. They have a clear corporate responsibility or CSR policy-animals, people and environment. It all comes down to one simple sentence. Food with integrity. How does it all come together?

“Food with integrity is our commitment to finding the very best ingredients raised with respect for the animals, the environment and the farmers.”

What is it about Chipotle’s corporate policy that makes it meaningful?

  • They have a vision and a core value that is integrated and prevalent in everything they do. i.e. They do “food with integrity”.
  • The company sets goals that challenge their business model but are still attainable.
  • They measure progress and reset their goals. Their restaurants always provide updates on their sustainability goals, not just on an annual report, (they probably do that but you and me don’t always read those) but right up near their menu board.
  • They admit difficulties on attaining some of those goals but do not hesitate to flaunt both failures and successes.
  • Chipotle takes building greener restaurants seriously with the nation’s first ever platinum LEED restaurant under their belt in Gurnee, IL.
  • The business works with their community as they believe, “without a community, there is no community burrito store”

And there are some wonderful lessons to be learned from Chipotle’s sustainability journey. For example, when they started sourcing naturally raised pork and beef, they were met with almost no supply. But they persisted.

“We’ve put a lot of work into poking, prodding, convincing, and occasionally applying guilt to ranchers in order to get more and more suppliers to meet our naturally raised standards.”

Today they are successful in increasing demand for responsibly raised meat and are rewarded with an increase in supply. Chipotle is an excellent example of how a sustainable business can turn the wheels of a positive feedback loop.

And hey, all this good work isn’t too bad for business either! Chipotle is doing some booming business and plans to expand in Europe as well. After all, when you take so much pain to make that tasty burrito- everybody wants one!



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