Word of Mouth

Chipotle Mexican Grill opens 1,000th restaurant

Chipotle Mexican Grill, the big-ass burrito-monger that started in a tiny renovated ice cream shop at 1644 East Evans in 1993 has reached a couple of milestones recently.

The first European Chipotle started hawking the goods to Londoners in May, and yesterday, the chain opened its 1,000th restaurant in Flower Mound, Texas to what Chris Arnold, Chipotle's director of public relations, described as a "really busy and steady day." Not bad for a restaurant that was once meant to serve as a cash cow to fund CEO and founder Steve Ells's fine dining restaurant dreams.

That cash cow turned into an empire, and Arnold says that the Denver-based company is planning on opening 120-130 locations this year. "Most of our growth is still within the U.S. in established markets, but we're exploring other sites in London, as well as some sites in Paris and Germany," he notes.

That empire is built on the foundation of some of fast-casual joint's most fervent fans. Some love the chain's quirky marketing, which has included radio spots like the famous Burrito Lady song (halfway down the list here) and T-shirts that say, "Usually when you roll something this good, it's illegal." Others get warm and fuzzy for the eatery's commitment to sustainability initiatives, which encompass everything from local sourcing to alternative energy use, like the windmill that powers the Platinum-certified LEED restaurant in Gurnee, Illinois. And the most foaming at the mouth Chipotle die-hards collect highly elusive commemorative coins, tender for a free burrito that the chain doles out yearly -- but rarely sees redeemed -- and make a practice of proposing in front of the original restaurant in Denver.

Speaking of which, if you've got undying love for the growing burrito giant, tell them about it here, the company's latest stunt in its ongoing viral marketing tactics, and your story might end up on bags, cups, or... something else.