Did you know you can order a tequila margarita at Chipotle? That the pinto beans are now bacon-free? And that front-of-store composting is being launched in 15 Denver restaurants? I’ve always enjoyed Chipotle, and love to see them up the ante with more nutritious offerings and healthier and more socially responsible policies and suppliers.
Chipotle has now launched ‘sofritas,’ a vegetarian alternative for those of us who choose not to eat chicken, pork, or beef, no matter how it’s raised. Though I eat fish, I’d pretty much given up on fish tacos, and Chipotle’s experimental ‘Garden Blend’ option a couple of years ago didn’t fly since it had to be cooked to order, rendering my ‘healthy fast food’ stop a wait just a titch too long.
Sofritas is an organic, non-GMO, tofu-based offering that I found quite satisfying. I’ve ordered it three times now, and found it consistently good (though one night at the 29th Street mall location, they ran out of sofritas just as my dinner guest was about to order it—I got the last little bit). As a linguist who works in branding and naming, I wouldn’t have called the product “sofritas” since in Spanish, the verb “sofrir” means to tolerate or to suffer. Only the extremely spice-averse would suffer eating sofritas, as it’s kinda heavy on the poblano peppers and chipotle chilies. Not a fan of really spicy food myself, I found that guacamole, light cheese, and the mild corn salsa cooled the spicy factor perfectly for me. I think the chilies and the meat-like texture of the tofu will ensure that the tofu-skeptic will not have reason to complain. What’s more, sofritas contains agave as a sweetener, not honey, so it’s technically vegan.
Chipotle launched sofritas earlier this year in the San Francisco Bay Area, home of Chipotle’s tofu supplier, Hodo Soy. They then went to Southern California where sofritas quickly achieved 4-5% of sales. Surveys showed Chipotle’s marketers that about 30% of sofritas eaters are carnivores, indicating that the company’s goal of creating a meatless alternative that appeals to both veggies and carnivores is meeting with success. Smart move, Chipotle. As many marketers know, people don’t often know what they want until it’s in front of them. On September 23, select Colorado restaurants began serving sofritas and quickly racked up about 4% of sales as of early October 2013. Boulder’s restaurants claim about 10% of sales, probably not surprising.
Chipotle’s stock price is up 1,316% since they went public in 2006. There are now over 1500 Chipotle restaurants, with 72 in Colorado, two in Paris, six in London, six in Toronto, one in Vancouver, and one in Frankfurt. The company is valued at over US$15 billion. Despite the company’s huge size, it still feels like a local establishment when I walk into Boulder’s Pearl Street location—possibly because HQ is in nearby Denver, but also because the employees are so gosh darned polite and good at what they do.
If only they’d bring back the Daily Trivia question where you’d win a free drink if you guessed correctly…now *that* was a great marketing idea.