How Chipotle is changing the fast food scene for the better

Chipotle’s innovative approach to fast food is definitely giving fast food chains a run for their money. In 1993, Steve Ells opened the first Chipotle…

Steve Ells, the founder and CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill, stands for his photograph in front of his logo at his company’s headquarters in Denver. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

Chipotle’s innovative approach to fast food is definitely giving fast food chains a run for their money.

In 1993, Steve Ells opened the first Chipotle Mexican Grill in Boulder, Colorado, despite being told frequently that his venture would never succeed in the shadows of big-time fast food chains like McDonalds and Taco Bell. Fast forward twenty years, and it’s undeniable that Ells has proved his doubters wrong. To date, there are over 1,400 Chipotle locations in 43 states, and the chain continues to expand every day.

To show how drastically Chipotle is altering the fast food scene, we will compare it to its head-on-competitor in the fast food world, Taco Bell.

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Food quality


Ells wanted to ensure that Chipotle’s primary focus was to provide customers with top quality ingredients. While the menu is more expensive than that of Taco Bell, it is for a good reason: all of the ingredients used in Chipotle’s burritos or bowls are delivered fresh to the store. In fact, the ingredients are so fresh that you won’t even find a freezer in the back of a Chipotle restaurant!

Taco Bell

Taco Bell has faced serious scrutiny over the years for its questionable taco meat. In 2011, Taco Bell faced a lawsuit that claimed the chain’s “meat mixture” contained less than 35% beef when inspected and that its quality was poor enough to be considered dog food.

Taco Bell defended its menu and released an official statement in response, saying, “We start with 100 percent USDA-inspected beef. Then we simmer it in our proprietary blend of seasonings and spices to give our seasoned beef its signature Taco Bell taste and texture.”

Dining space


The interiors of Chipotle restaurants are much more upscale than your typical fast food restaurant. Instead of harsh fluorescent lighting and cheap plastic chairs, Chipotle restaurants are beautifully designed with wood and metal accents to give the customers a more pleasant and inviting dining experience.

Taco Bell

Taco Bell locations have recently undergone major renovations to revamp their image in the wake of Chipotle’s massive success. The interiors of many Taco Bells now have a sleek, minimalist appearance, strikingly similar to Chipotle’s hip and trendy dining areas.

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You won’t find employees slaving away for minimum wage at Chipotle. According to, the average crewmember at Chipotle earns $8.69 an hour, which is well over a dollar more than the national average minimum wage. However, in return for the higher pay, Chipotle’s policy is to dismiss employees who perform poorly or who are considered mediocre.

Taco Bell

According to, the average crewmember at Taco Bell makes $7.79 an hour. This means that the average part-time Chipotle worker makes over $70 more a month than the average Taco Bell employee.

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Chipotle's foos is a healthier alternative to regular fast food.

Vegan Sofrita burrito. (Chipotle)



Chipotle’s mantra, “Food with Integrity” sums up its philosophy: it wants to provide quality ingredients and atmosphere to its customers.

For instance, after realizing that he didn’t like the taste of the shredded pork burrito, Ells found a higher grade of pork to ensure that his patrons received the best food possible, even though this move meant he had to raise the price of the shredded pork burrito by a dollar. Ells told Time magazine in 2012, “I don’t want anything to be part of Chipotle that wouldn’t be the very best.”

Taco Bell

Taco Bell prides itself on its affordability. Its customers can get tacos and burritos on the Value Menu for only 99 cents. When fast food restaurants sell food for this cheap, it usually means that their food is made out of highly processed and inexpensive ingredients.

While Taco Bell has revealed their menu’s ingredients to the public so that we know they do serve real meat, there is something unsettling about the fact that it is delivered to the store in plastic sheets.



In order to move toward sustainability, Chipotle shells out extra money for pork, beef, and chicken from animals that have been raised humanely and fed natural, organic, foods. Chipotle’s produce, such as its lettuce and corn, is also raised locally when possible.

Taco Bell

In recent years, Taco Bell has made efforts to become more sustainable by reducing their water and energy usage. But don’t expect high quality meat from humanely treated animals when you bite into a Doritos Locos Taco; expect to eat plenty of fillers and additives that don’t promote sustainability, even if the taco does taste good.