Chipotle vs. the Burrito Snobs

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
Feb. 11 2012 10:15 AM

Chipotle vs. the Burrito Snobs

I got a variety of responses to my Chipotle piece of which the least-persuasive is the Yelp of the Bay Area Burrito Snobs who wish to inform me that Chipotle's burritos are but a pale imitation of the finest in Mission District burrito offerings. I am not an expert in such matters but am happy to concede that I had a better-than-Chipotle burrito last time I was in San Francisco.

But this is completely irrelevant. I don't know why it is that no beloved Bay Area taquerias have become Patient Zero for a major national chain with a publicly traded stock, an international expansion under way, and an ambitious proposal to launch a second restaurant concept but the fact of the matter is that they haven't. Instead, it's Steve Ells and his Chipotle Mexican Grill from Denver, Colo., that have done that. The issue is to compare Chipotle to other substantial national food service chains. My claim is that it represents a leading edge of a trend toward offering a higher price/quality point in a fast casual setting. Five Guys (as noted in the article) is another great example of this, but since it's privately held there's less information available about it. I'm also an enthusiastic booster of the smaller salad-oriented chains Chopt and Mixt Greens, both of which I think have a lot of promise.

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Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.