The Rise of the Chipotle Empire and the Decline of Quick Serve

Cartoon of Steve Ells from Animated Video by Chipotle | chipotle.com

Cartoon of Steve Ells from Animated Video by Chipotle | chipotle.com

No one can argue that the “fast casual” restaurant chains are making their debut in America. The idea of higher-quality ingredients served at an efficient rate for a few more bucks out of your pocket is redefining the food industry, while forcing the larger fast food chains to adapt or give up the fight.

Steve Ells, Founder and CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill, initiated the rise of this new business model with the opening of the first Chipotle in 1993. Combining a passion for culinary arts, a little support from family and friends, and eventually an investment from a major restaurant chain, McDonalds, his restaurant has risen to a multi-billion dollar company in the span of two decades. Where did this restaurant plant its roots and what has made it so successful with the American public?

Applying this idea of “fast casual” service largely differed from the fast food model on which McDonalds had built their empire, and eventually led to their split with the chain in 2008. Not only did Chipotle succeed from the idea of serving “food with integrity,” they created an entirely new business model that revolutionized the existing models in the industry and left fast food chains, including McDonalds, struggling to keep up. Read more about Chipotle’s history here