Chipotle: Small menu brings large crowds

Police officers guided cars through a jam-packed parking lot as a long line of college students snaked out the door and down the neighboring sidewalk.

The building was not a trendy nightclub, or even a concert venue. It was Chipotle Mexican Grill on opening day, Nov. 28, on U.S. 1 south of Sunset Place.

Referred to by Chipotle’s Denver headquarters as the “University of Miami Chipotle,” the new restaurant continues to thrive, despite the presence of Chipotle’s two competitors: Salsarita’s on UM’s campus and a Qdoba on Sunset Drive.

Menu and Nutrition

With no lack of nearby burrito-serving restaurants, one may think that students flock to Chipotle because of their vast menu or nutritious food. Think again.

Chipotle’s famed burrito, tacos and recently added salad entrée comprise the entire menu, yet the chain has no intentions of expanding their selection to match the menu size of competitors’.

Out of several Tex Mex-style fast-food chains, the calorie and fat content of a Chipotle burrito stacks high, only to be narrowly topped by Qdoba’s burrito.

Students are well aware of how many calories are in their Chipotle burritos, yet continue to eat them.

“I need more calories!” shouted junior Nick Simmons as he jiggled his belly upon discovering that a Chipotle burrito is around 1,100 calories, before adding guacamole and sour cream.

UM nutrition professor Lisa Dorfman explained that weight gain is common among college students, and much of it is due to the consumption of fast food, much like that which is served at Chipotle.

“It’s delicious, it smells good and it’s cheap,” said Dorfman, referring to why college students eat so much fast food.

Dorfman explained that students entering college enjoy the new freedom of being away from home and can choose to eat fast food more liberally.

She added that fast food may help new students make friends in college because “food becomes an icebreaker.”

This may explain why the majority of students who attended “Free Burrito Day” were underclassmen.

As students try to bond over junk food, they form “food trajectories,” which are emotional connections to food and can lead to an addiction, Dorfman said.

“You go to these fast-food places and you remember all the goodness,” Dorfman explained. “There is an addictive quality and you go back for more. Once a week may not hurt you, but then you start going once or twice a day.”

Dorfman said that a burrito from Chipotle contains the majority of the daily-recommended caloric intake of the average college student. This adds up.

Yet, Chipotle maintains its menu is healthy, claiming it is “Food With Integrity,” according to a recent press release.

This label means that the animals are fed a vegetarian and antibiotic-free diet before they are freshly grilled at each restaurant.

Some students believe the food is healthier at Chipotle than at other burrito chains.

“Salsarita’s is too greasy,” sophomore Alicia Mucci said, “[Chipotle] is fresher.”

Despite the weight gain associated with excess consumption of fast food, Dorfman reminds students that it is still acceptable to enjoy fast food without facing the consequences.

Limiting starches, like rice and tortillas, is helpful, she said. This can be achieved at Chipotle by ordering their “Burrito Bol,” the burrito beef filling sans the 340-calorie tortilla.

A nutritional guide to fast-food restaurants by Dorfman, including Chipotle, will be available this semester in the Department of Exercise Science (Merrick room 315) and in the Hecht Athletic Center by the end of the academic year.

The Phenomenon

In 2006, Chipotle reported $219.7 million in revenue, which continues to increase with more than 670 restaurants open in 30 states.

“We have openings virtually every day,” said Rebecca Rivera, Chipotle’s local store marketing consultant for southeast Florida.

Prior to the opening of the new Chipotle in South Miami and another in North Miami Beach this past summer, the two locations nearest to UM were in Weston and Boca Raton. But that did not deter some students.

Sophomore Kirsten Brooks made the drive during her freshman year. She even purchased extra burritos to stockpile in her mini-fridge.

“Every time I walk into a Chipotle I know I will be completely satisfied and full with the best possible burrito,” she said.

To Know

As lines continue growing in Chipotle restaurants, the chain now allows customers to call, fax or submit their orders online under the acronym DSL, which stands for “don’t stand in line.”

Jamie Ostroff may be contacted at

How do you pronounce Chipotle?

4Right way: chee-POHT-lay
4Wrong way: chi-POLE-tay, chi-POT-ul
4Really wrong way for those who think the “t” is silent: chee-POLE

Comparing fast food burrito nutrition info

Chipotle 1059 calories
1070 g fat
38 calories from fat

Qdoba 1070 calories
38 g fat
350 calories from fat

Taco Bell 400 calories
13 g fat
130 calories from fat

Baja Fresh 790 calories
13 g fat
120 calories from fat

Salsarita’s 968 calories
30 g fat
270 calories from fat

January 17, 2008


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