Commentary

Eight Ways Chipotle Will Change With the Move to California

Don't let the sun go down on Chipotle...in California.
Don't let the sun go down on Chipotle...in California. Mike Mozart at Flickr
Just five months ago, Denver’s own Chipotle announced that it was moving its headquarters from a LoDo loft to a downtown high-rise. Sort of made sense: The burrito chain that Steve Ells founded 25 years ago this summer in a former Dolly Madison at 1644 East Evans Avenue had come a long way. It was movin’ on up, to a dee-luxe apartment in the sky.

Fast-forward to this week: Instead of moving to that downtown high-rise, Chipotle is moving all the way out to California, where new CEO Brian Niccol, formerly the CEO of Taco Bell, happens to live.

Chipotle is “Denver’s own” no longer.

But while Chipotle's move sucks for Denver, which has prided itself on being the capital of the fast-casual business that got a big boost from Chipotle, it will suck more for you, Chipotle. You're gambling your future on a risky move that squanders the hometown goodwill you’ve built up over the years in favor of the complete apathy with which Californians will regard you, just another company in the sea of office parks dotting the inland hills. It’s going to change you, Chipotle. It’s going to change everything. And not in just these eight ways…but we have to start the healing process somewhere.


8. Guac? Finally Free
Avocado is central to the California experience. Want to make a burger California-style? Add avocado. An omelet? Avocado. Pizza? Well, chicken (white meat only, please). But also avocado. You get the idea. When it comes to Chipotle, avocado means guac, and guac in turn means an extra couple bucks added to your bean and barbacoa…and that’s just not going to fly in Cali. As a California company, Chipotle will need to free the guac.


7. Fast-Casual Will Become Super-Casual
The fast-casual food movement is about to get a lot more casual. We’re talking, like, Jeff Spicoli-level casual. Unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt, surf shorts, barefoot, stringy hair — you know, trust-fund babies. No shirt, no shoes…no problem!


6. Breaking Up With Denver Will Prove Hard to Do
New CEO Niccol says that Chipotle will “always be proud of our Denver roots,” which loosely translates to “It’s not you, babe, it’s me. I just need to find myself. Please don’t hate me. I don’t think I could live with myself if you hated me. And, hey: We’ll always have Paris…and by Paris, I mean the original store on Evans.” And where do people who claim a desperate, sudden need to “find themselves” tend to end up? That’s right: California. 


5. Goodbye, Ski Bums — Hello, Surfer Dudes and Dudettes

When it was local, Chipotle was the perfect job for the itinerant ski bum: solid work, decent pay and (bonus!) discount carbo-loading with a solid protein source in a pocket-sized meal — okay, it’s a big pocket — to eat on the go. Burritos are arguably one of the best foods for a long day on the slopes. Translating that to surfers might pose something of a challenge; the gig itself might still pay the bills, but taking a burrito out on the waves is problematic. Storage is one thing — North Face jacket pockets are better for burrito stowage than is a wetsuit —but seriously, no one wants a waterlogged tortilla.

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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen