Chipotle Moves to Catering w/ Very Effective In-Store Advertising

When you think about Chipotle, do you think “catering”? Most people don’t.

This is why I was taken aback when I walked into a Chipotle in Sicklerville, NJ and was greeted by this sign.


I love this ad for so many reasons.

1. It is informed by genius business strategy

Is Chipotle a fast food restaurant  or are they something more? By expanding their business model to include catering, Chipotle is communicating again to the world that they are something more.

If you’ve been to a Chipotle, you know that you get your food fast, but you also know that there is something special about the food you’re getting. You can see your food being cooked and the price you pay for a burrito signals that you’re getting something of higher quality than typical fast food. Chipotle has also gone out of their way to brand themselves as a restaurant that serves you “Food With Integrity” focusing on their commitment to high quality and sustainably sourced ingredients – these distinctives are actually helping to define a relatively new restaurant category called “Fast Casual”. On the other hand, fast food restaurants are still dealing with fallout from the “Pink Slime” controversy.

no table needed
no table needed

Identity can be a constraining or liberating thing. The decision to enter the catering space reflects a liberated corporate identity and  genius business strategy. By identifying themselves as a fast food restaurant that is so much more than a fast food restaurant – or a fast casual restaurant, Chipotle is free to riff on what it means to be more. In this iteration, “more” for Chipotle means a move into a space in which fast-food restaurants with a more narrowly defined identity do not go.

 2. Smart Approach

There are two ways to grow revenue:

#1 – bring in new customers

#2 – get your existing customers to consume more

Now, Chipotle is definitely going to draw customers they otherwise would not have drawn with their new product, but this offering is all about getting existing customers to buy more. It is generally more expensive to acquire new customers than it is to entice your existing base to use you more – so businesses have strong incentive to reach out to their installed base to get them to spend more (aside: take a step back and think about the moral quandary this puts alcohol companies and casinos in). In opting for #2, Chipotle is taking the easier and smarter route. Nothing earth shattering here, but I like it.

3. Great Placement

When you walk into a Chipotle, you take the long walk from the door to the left side of the counter. While waiting in line, you look at the menu. If you’re indecisive, you look because you’re trying to figure out what you’re going to get. If you know exactly what you want to get, you look at the menu because it is where you look when you’re waiting in line.



Better said – all of the people that Chipotle wants to see it, their existing customers, see it!. They’re driving consideration with every purchase. A Catalina-style receipt offer might get them something, but it won’t get them that.

With this placement they’re also driving conversations. The awkward silence between coworkers when they walk in is interrupted by a “next meeting – we’re getting Chipotle”. Think about what that could become on social media #nextmeeting #ChipotleParty Make your meeting a #Meating. Powerful stuff.

How to make it better

a) Get rid of the phone number – replace it with a simple ordering microsite.

The Call to Action is simple, but it is lacking in insight. Who the heck wants to make a phone call to place an order for anything? This insight is currently driving Seamless’ most recent ad campaign. Get with the times, Chipotle.


b) Make it easier for people to talk about this online

This is an exciting product – people will want to share it with others – but there is no call to start or to join a conversation about this new awesome product on social media. Why not take that extra step? #nextmeeting #socialintegration

Share your thoughts on how else this could have been better in the comment section. Until next time