Wrote this letter to Chipotle maybe a month ago. Got the typical corporate response, “we are taking this seriously”.  Thought this would be a good place to save for future laughs.
Long time Chipotle fan and customer. My experience has generally been great – tremendous service, tasty food and great staff. However, there is one issue that I continue to run into at almost every Chipotle I’ve been. Call ahead orders cause the line to be extremely and unnecessarily long, treating the customers that did come in as second class to those who phoned in. As the great Peter Griffin once said, “This really grinds my gears”.
From what I can tell, call aheads take precedent within the burrito construction line. I am not sure if this is a company policy or a local restaurant’s choice but it does seem to apply to all the Chipotles I’ve been to on the east coast of the US. Why does Chipotle give more preference to those customers that make call ins? Honestly, my friends and I don’t even bother ordering anymore in the line, as the call aheads basically destroy what is setup as a line. A short story might help to explain my position a little better. Let me set the stage.
It’s lunch at a local Chipotle, the line is long, wrapping through the restaurant. Many folks want their burritos and tacos and are willing to wait in this line. A fine young man walks by and decides, today, i want that delicious burrito that Chipotle makes so tastily. As he walks inside, opening the door and seeing the long line, he realizes its gonna be a little wait. This young man, described by his friends and family as a stand-up citizen who regularly assists in the relocation of the elderly from one side of the street to the other, and also being a great problem solver, thinks about this for a moment, looks around, and notices a sign. It says “Order Online or Call Ahead, Avoid the Line”. He thinks, “Great, Ill just call it in and skip the line.” So he does just that. Standing outside, he takes his phone, calls the location he is standing in front of and orders his burrito (a chicken burrito, specifically, with white rice, black beans, pico de gallo, corn salsa, and cheese. It also has one ingredient that isn’t listed – happiness. Yet he can taste it in every bite.) He hangs up, looks back in the store, and proceeds to walk in. He walks right to the front counter and proceeds to tell the work staff he made a phone order and would like to pay and pick it up. The workers seem surprised, they had not physically received the order yet, so they rush over to start assembling his food. This interrupts the rest of the assembly line for a few minutes and the line grows longer. They get him his food, he pays, and walks out the door. He is thrilled that his food took a matter of minutes to assemble and laughs at the rest of the line as he walks out the door. Delighted by this success, he will forever order burritos this way, never once standing in line again.
A story that started out with a polite, upstanding young man ends with him corrupted by the lure of a shortcut that undermines his fellow Chipotle enthusiasts who have been waiting in line, watching him cackle with no idea of what has really taken place, while they sigh resignedly and watch their wait grow just a few minutes longer.
Ultimately, the ease of use that Chipotle wanted to provide as a benefit to people who would order ahead has resulted in a power struggle, between those who would wait in line, and those who would not. What is taking place isn’t even a case of separate but equal, it’s a case of separate AND unequal… and the power has gone to those who would call ahead. This is a problem that is worsening every day, and for myself, it makes me less inclined to patronize any Chipotle in the future. It is a shame, because all people, whether they wait in line or call in their orders, should be able to enjoy their Chipotle without having to choose one side or the other. My suggestion would be a smaller assembly line in the back of the house, that would be dedicated only to online/call ahead orders. This is just my suggestion, and surely I acknowledge there must be other ways to fix this. There should be – there can be – a solution to wrap both kinds of Chipotle patrons in a warm burrito of satisfaction, and fullness, after they receive their food.